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CHIPS Articles: Displaying the American flag with style

Displaying the American flag with style
By Susan H. Lawson, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division - July 1, 2019
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — This week a number of American flags will be displayed in celebration of the Independence Day holiday, but there are a few guidelines to ensure we are displaying Old Glory properly.

In 1923, the U.S. National Flag Code was created and distributed nationwide. The code became Public Law in 1942 and became the U.S. Flag Code we know today. The U.S. Flag Code lays out the ways to display and respect the flag of the United States.

For example:

- The flag should not be on display outdoors during bad weather.

- The flag should not be used for advertising purposes, or embroidered on cushions, handkerchiefs napkins, or boxes.

- The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.

- It should never be displayed upside down unless trying to convey a sign of distress or great danger.

- The flag should never touch anything beneath it; this includes water, merchandise, and even the floor.

Clean, and damage free flags should always be used. Dirty, ripped, wrinkled, or frayed flags should not be used. Also, when flags are damaged, they should be destroyed in a dignified manner.

The U.S. flag should flow freely in the wind or in a lobby with a passing breeze as people walk past. Stretching a flag is a lot like walking around with your arms held out straight. It is not to be held captive by metal arm spreaders as if to say, “Look at me!”

Staffs and finials should always be upright and not leaning. If you see any flags around our command that do not look right, please let the Protocol office know.

Clamping a U.S. flag to a vehicle’s antenna is acceptable, or the flagstaff clamped to the right fender, as long as the flag displays in the proper direction.

Service flags are displayed in order of service precedence, not the host service where you are located. The order of precedence is Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

When displaying the U.S. flag with other flags, the U.S. flag comes first and is centered in the middle of a flag display. In addition, the U.S. flag must be placed higher than the other flags, unless other national flags are present, in that case the U.S. flag would be the same height.

Buntings are a good way to display our national colors and decorate for Independence Day without discrediting the U.S. flag. The U.S. Flag Code also states that the flag should be displayed in or near every schoolhouse, polling place, and public institution.

If you have questions about the proper procedures, rules, and methods regarding how U.S. flag is to be handled, displayed or disposed, contact the Naval Surface Warfare Center Public Affairs Office’s Protocol Officer at (850) 230-7400.

Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division personnel demonstrate the proper U.S. flag folding technique during a family event. Photo by Katherine Mapp
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