How to Fly the Flag

Americana, Traditions
on April 28, 2012

The American flag is one of the most beautiful flags created. The bold red and white stripes contrasting with the starry blue block in the upper right-hand corner is the ultimate symbol of freedom for many. Displaying the flag on special holidays or as a daily tribute is a well-loved tradition; however, many people do not understand all the proper flag display guidelines. Learn how to fly the flag properly, and visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for more information.

It’s the law. The Federal Flag Code (Public Law 94-344) defines guidelines for the proper handling and display of the flag. The federal government does not outline penalties for misuse of the flag, but many states do impose penalties.

When to fly the flag. The flag may be flown on special occasions, holidays and anytime you choose; however, tradition dictates that the flag should be raised briskly at sunrise and lowered ceremoniously at sunset — unless the flag is illuminated. Additionally, the flag should be protected from weather damage, unless it is an all-weather flag.

Learn the history of Flag Day

How to fly the flag. There are many guidelines for proper flying of the flag. These rules include:

  • Always display the flag hanging from a staff or suspended so it falls freely with the union (starry blue block) at the peak of the staff.
  • When displayed crossed staff with another flag, the U.S. flag should be the flag on top and to the left if facing the wall. The flag should always be displayed to the left — from the viewing audience's perspective.
  • When hung with groups of flags, the U.S. flag should always be the highest point.
  • If not hung from a staff, the U.S. flag may be suspended flat with the union facing north or east.
  • The flag may cover a casket with the union at the deceased person's head and heart region. The flag should be removed before lowering into the grave, never touching the ground.
  • When flying the flag at half-staff, always raise the flag to the top before lowering it halfway down the staff.
  • When raising, lowering or passing the flag in parade or review, Americans should place the right hand over the heart and stand at attention. Uniformed military may salute. Men not in uniform should remove their hats, holding it with the right hand at the left shoulder. Non U.S. citizens should stand at attention.
  • Never dip the U.S. flag for anyone or anything. Other flags may be dipped as an honor to passing individuals out of respect.
  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, water, the floor or merchandise.
  • When the flag becomes worn or torn, dispose of the flag with dignity and respect — preferably by burning at a proper ceremony.