American Flag Guidelines

Memorial Day is upon us and it’s a great time to review our American flag guidelines along with refreshing just what Memorial Day stands for.

the stars and stripes USÅ flag

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day commemorates the women and men who have died while in military service.

Begun in the late 1860’s as Decoration Day, spring flowers were distributed at graves to honor those fallen in the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century, ceremonies were being held in cities across the country. In 1966, the Federal Government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. (Source: The Origins of Memorial Day, Department of Veterans Affairs )

Even though it is a national holiday and we commonly celebrate it by spending time with family and friends or vacationing. But we need to take a few moments to remember the real reason for the day.

Displaying the flag is encouraged on Memorial Day so this is a good time to take a few moments and review some guidelines.


Some Basic Rules of Flag Etiquette

  • Do not let the flag touch the ground. 
  • Do not fly the flag upside down unless there is an emergency. 
  • Do not carry the flag flat, or carry things in it. 
  • Do not use the flag as clothing. 
  • Do not store the flag where it can get dirty. 
  • Do not use it as a cover. (A flag draping a casket is usually reserved for veterans)
  • Do not fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free. 
  • Do not draw on, or otherwise mark the flag. 

Did you know?

The flag should not be flown in inclement weather.

Flag Disposal

  • 1. The flag should be folded in its customary manner. 
  • 2. It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure the complete burning of the flag.
  • 3. Place the flag on the fire.
  • 4. The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and have a brief period of silent reflection.

There are many more guidelines for displaying the flag and I learn something new each time I review them. This post just hits the high spots! Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Fly between sunrise and sunset.
  • Illuminate if flown at night.
  • Display vertically or horizontally on a wall whether indoors or out. It should be suspended so that its folds fall free just as if it were staffed. the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right (that is, to the observer’s left).
  • It is okay to wash or dry clean a flag.
  • There are currently no penalties for desecrating the flag. (I think there should be.)
  • Do not use a flag or image of a flag for advertising.

The Flag at Half-Staff

The United States flag flies at half-staff or at half-mast when the nation or a state is in mourning. The president, a state governor, or the mayor of the District of Columbia can order flags to fly at half-staff. Most often, it marks the death of a government official, military member, or first responder. 911 is an example of when flags were flown half-staff.

Fly the flag half-staffed on Memorial Day from sunrise until noon. Then display at full-staff from noon until sunset.

Sign up to be notified when the flag is to be displayed at half-staff at

I hope you enjoy your Memorial Day and if you’re able to fly the flag, do it with a grateful heart. Remember the men and women who gave their lives so we can be free. Let us never forget.

Update 5/21/23

I finally got my flag up! We have stone on the front of the house so I had to opt to put it on the back porch. Actually, we can enjoy it more there since we spend so much time on the back. Now if the rain will hold off!

back porch or deck with porch swing and american flag hanging

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