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On Flag Day, Honor our Flag!

 

As the holiday created to pay homage to our national icon arrives, it’s time to review the responsibilities attached to displaying the national emblem.

June 14 is Flag Day. This day celebrates the 1777 adoption of the official U.S. flag. Many people and businesses display the flag as a gesture of respect, patriotism, devotion and community spirit. All admirable attributes to be sure. To be sure your display is within guidelines, here are a few helpful excerpts from the Flag Code, United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1:

§6. Time and occasions for display
  1. It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
  2. The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  3. The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.
  4. The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on
    • New Year’s Day, January 1
    • Inauguration Day, January 20
    • Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, third Monday in January
    • Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12
    • Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February
    • Easter Sunday (variable)
    • Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May
    • Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May
    • Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May
    • Flag Day, June 14
    • Independence Day, July 4
    • Labor Day, first Monday in September
    • Constitution Day, September 17
    • Columbus Day, second Monday in October
    • Navy Day, October 27
    • Veterans Day, November 11
    • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November
    • Christmas Day, December 25
    • and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States
    • the birthdays of States (date of admission)
    • and on State holidays.
  5. The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.
  6. The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.
  7. The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

§8. Respect for flag

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 of honor.

  1. The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
  2. The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
  3. The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
  4. The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
  5. The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
  6. The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
  7. The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
  8. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  9. The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
  10. No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
  11. The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. {Emphasis added.]

Additional Information:

Is it proper to wash a soiled flag? May I mend a torn flag?

Yes. If a flag is torn, it can be repaired, preferably by a professional or someone skilled in mending. If it is dirty, it can be washed, preferably by hand with a mild soap. If it is faded or tattered beyond repair, or dirty beyond cleaning, then it is time to replace the flag.

Many dry cleaners will clean your flag at no cost. Ask your local cleaner their policy on cleaning flags.

My flag is old and ready to be retired. What should I do?

Section 8k of the Flag Code [see below] states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” We recommend that you contact your local VFW Chapter and ask them for help properly disposing of your flag. And be sure to consider providing a small donation to them for their assistance. Or you can contact your local Elks Lodge (who created the idea of Flag Day, established officially by President Truman, himself a member of the Elks), the American Legion, or the Knights of Columbus. Some Boy Scout and Girl Scout troups also can provide this service.

See Flag Burning Service and Ceremony.

In earlier times, most American flags were made of cotton or wool. But today’s flags are often nylon or other petroleum-based materials. Burning them can release hazardous gases, including formaldehydes, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and traces of hydrogen cyanide into the air. In some states, it is even illegal to burn nylon, so adhering to the Flag Code puts you in direct violation of the law. Burning is preferred for cotton and wool flags. Nylon and flags made from other synthetics can be buried.

Modern flag retirement ceremonies, often held annually on Flag Day, sometimes feature the symbolic burning of a single flag (cotton or wool) and the burial of the others. This is both safe and respectful.

American Flag Recycling: A group advocating recycling nylon flags


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