Flag Day prompts reminder of proper etiquette, respect

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2003

Fly the flag. Saturday is Flag Day.

Originally observed as "Flag Birthday," the holiday honoring the symbol of the United States has a colorful past. Many localized observances over the years have been organized by groups bearing the names Betsy Ross House, New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America and the Illinois American Flag Day Association.

It wasn't until 1916, however, that the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 adopting the Stars and Stripes, was established by proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson. An Act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day was not signed into law until 1949.

And while a number of national events has brought a preponderance of unsolicited flag flying in this country the end of World War II, landing American astronauts on the moon and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Flag Day is but one of many days each year on which Americans are urged to display the flag.

According to the U.S. Flag Code, the American flag also should be displayed on New Year's Day, Inauguration Day (Jan. 20), Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day, Lincoln's birthday, Washington's birthday, Easter Sunday, Mother's Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day (Sept. 17), Columbus Day, Navy Day (Oct. 27), Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and "such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States."

The Flag Code also spells out proper etiquette for displaying the flag. It should be flown from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be flown around the clock as long as it is properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously and should not be displayed during inclement weather unless an all-weather flag is used.

The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution, in or near every polling place on election days and in or near every schoolhouse during school days.

When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from a window sill, balcony or front of a building, the blue union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.

When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the blue union always should be uppermost and to the observer's left. If the flag is being displayed in a window, the blue union should be to the left of the observer in the street.

The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides or back of a vehicle and when displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

If the flag is being used on a speaker's platform, if displayed flat, it should be above and behind the speaker. If on a pole, the American flag should be in a position of superior prominence and should be to the speaker's right as he or she faces the audience. Any other flag should be placed on the speaker's left.

In a section on respect for the American flag the code states, "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing." As such, the flag should never touch anything beneath it such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise, and it should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

When the flag becomes worn or tattered from use and is no longer in a condition suitable for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

The American Legion Post No. 20 in Kenai normally conducts a flag burning ceremony on Flag Day, but will not do so this year. Anyone with a flag that is to be destroyed may drop it off at the post for a ceremony later.

As the code states, the flag is a living symbol of this country. Treat Old Glory with respect and fly it with pride today.

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