News and Articles

March 2004 - Flag Etiquette
The Daily Home Talladega, Sylacauga-Pell City, Alabama

As Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day approach us, and the Summer Olympics as well, there are customs connected with the flag of the United States that all citizens should know to show proper respect for symbol of our country and patriotism.

If asked, would you know the answers to these questions?

  • On Memorial Day, how long should the flag be displayed at half-staff?
  • When should a flag be flown at half-staff?
  • You are on your way back to your seat at the Braves game and the Star Spangle Banner begins to play, what action should you take?
  • What should I do when pledging allegiance to the flag?
  • What is the flag etiquette for the flag displayed on a power boat or sail boat?
  • During a ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag, or when the flag is passing in a parade or in a review, what action should you take?
  • Can you fly a flag 24 hours a day?

The following information should help answer the questions.

  • The Flags are displayed from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. Flags may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
  • The Flag should be hoisted quickly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • Flags should not be displayed during inclement weather; an exception is made when using an all weather flag.
  • The flag should be displayed in or near a polling place on Election Day.
  • The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.
  • The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.
  • On Memorial Day the flag should remain at half-staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset.
  • No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark or honor.
  • The flag should only be displayed with the union down as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
  • Clean and mend the flag when necessary.
  • A flag may become worn or no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. (Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Contact your local American Legion Hall or VFW and inquire about the availability of this service.)

The Salute

Uniformed persons give the appropriate formal salute. Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to the left shoulder, hand over the heart.

When the flag passes you in a parade, pay your respect. Women stand quietly with hands at their sides, or right hand over the heart. Men remove their hats and hold them in their right hand, over their heart. Men and women in the military salute as the flag passes.

The Pledge Allegiance and National Anthem

The pledge of allegiance should be rendered by facing the flag, standing at attention, and rendering the appropriate salute. When the national anthem is played or sung, everyone, even young children, should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag if displayed, otherwise to the music. If you are attending a sports event or in any public place and are on your way to your seat and you hear 'Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,' stop where you are and stand at attention until the end.

The Flag in Mourning

Upon Presidential or Gubernatorial order, the flag may be flown at half staff in mourning for designated, principal government leaders. To fly a flag at half staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position halfway between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered.

Using a flag to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.

Displaying flag on the sail boat and power boat

On a power boat the flag is flown from 8:00 a.m. until sunset. It flies from a staff at the stern when the boat is anchored or if the boat has a gaff, may be flown from the gaff when under way. On a sailboat the flag is flown from the stern in the harbor or under power, and may be flown while the boat is under sail.

Readers with questions on any etiquette situation may write Millie Chastain at 812 Chastain Road, Talladega, Alabama 35160 or E-mail Send questions to Laura Nation, The Daily Home, and P.O. Box 977, Talladega, Alabama. 35160 or to

Millie Chastain is the Director of The Protocol School of Alabama, and conducts Etiquette classes and summer camps June 7, 8, 9 for students in Talladega, Sylacauga, Pell City, and at Jacksonville State University June 14-18.