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Opinion

May 23, 2013

Show flag etiquette

— Monday is Memorial Day — set aside to honor those Americans who gave their lives in this nation’s wars. Lots of folks fly the flag every day as a show of patriotism, but what many might not know is that there are specific rules outlined in the U.S. Flag Code concerning its display.

For example, flying the flag 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is not necessarily appropriate. If you fly the flag at night, it should be properly lighted, meaning that the stars and stripes can be seen from a reasonable distance.

It is OK, though, to fly the flag in bad weather, so long as the flag has been constructed to withstand the conditions.

According to the Flag Code, the flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal. The flag also should not be used as a drapery, for covering a lectern, draping a platform or for any decoration in general.

Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on top.

The code also prohibits use of the flag for advertising. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.

The flag also should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.

When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms.

For storage, the flag should be folded neatly and ceremoniously. The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary, and when it becomes so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, the flag should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

Veterans organizations such as the American Legion regularly conduct flag-burning ceremonies. Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Girl Scout troops retire flags regularly as well.

So, by all means, fly your flag throughout the year — and at half-staff from sunrise to noon on Memorial Day. But when you do, please treat it with respect.

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