Airmen rendering proper procedures for the American Flag
2016 Fiile Photo by Alexa Henderson

Editor’s Note: If you have not seen the corrected version of the Promethean’s Nov. 19 issue, please click here.

We have all seen the American flag. Generally, when writing, I am not supposed to ‘assume’ anything but I can guarantee that everyone with vision has seen the 50 stars, the 13 stripes and the red, white, and blue at least once in their life. We see it on stickers, we see it flown on government properties and huge ones rippling over car dealerships. We see it on clothing and cars and we salute and give honor before sports games and official ceremonies. It is a symbol of American grit, unity and freedom.

But what is the common etiquette when handling the Star-Spangled Banner?

Some of you may have noticed in our issue on November 19 that the flag was displayed in a way that insinuates that we are under duress. Obviously, we aren’t, and it was an honest (and in my personal opinion, humorous) mistake.

Here are the rules to flag etiquette according to the official Department of Defense website.

“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.

When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

Flags are hung in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

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!”

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 they are displayed. 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 the national colors and decorate for Independence Day without discrediting the U.S. flag.

While I was in the military, I remember that when I was stationed at Fort Meade, Md., I was put on flag duty every three weeks or so. We had to put on our finest blues, and be as crisp and clean as possible. We would wake up at 4:00 a.m. and gather together to staff the courtyard in front of the headquarters building, right where the base commander could see (and judge) us. The process of unfolding the flag properly, rendering proper respects and raising the flag to the top at the EXACT minute it was supposed to, then coming back to undo the process as respectfully as we did in the morning for sunset was not only a huge stress, but an extreme honor. It could take anywhere from 10 minutes to what seemed like an eternity, but it is one of the most vivid memories that lives on in my head after my separation.

For me, the American flag will always incite feelings of camaraderie and freedom. I know that this is not the case for everyone, but I hope that this piece gave you something new to learn today.