American Flag Etiquette

When your family member joins the military, the American flag takes on an entirely new level of meaning and symbolism. Following are some of the basic rules of flag etiquette as well as guidelines for display and proper disposal of a worn flag.

  • The flag should not be used as drapery or decoration. There is red, white and blue bunting available for this purpose. The blue stripe should always be on top.
  • The flag should never have any additional marks or drawings placed on it or attached to it.
  • The flag should never be lowered or dipped to a person.
  • The flag should only be flown upside down as a sign of distress.
  • The flag should never touch the ground.
  • When removing the flag, it should be folded carefully and ceremoniously.
  • When a flag is no longer fit for display, it should be burned in a dignified manner. Many American Legion posts offer this service.
  • When the flag is displayed on a flag pole with other flags, the American flag should be the highest. This is also true if the American flag is being flown on a separate pole but with other flags nearby.
  • The American flag should be the first flag to be raised and the last to be lowered.
  • The American flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly.
  • The flag should be saluted as it is being lowered. Civilians should place their hand over their heart and any headgear should be removed.
  • The flag should ideally only be flown from sunrise to sunset. If it is flown at night, it should be illuminated.
  • When flown at half staff, the flag should first be raised to full staff and then lowered. It should be raised again before being lowered at sunset.
  • The flag is flown at half staff for designated, government officials or by order of the President of the United States or Governor of the state.
author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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One Comment

  1. I was reading this and had no idea that the flag had to raised to the top than lowered to half staff!
    I used to work at a bank and we had to put the flag at half staff &/or change it out because it was torn. Me and another co-worker put the flag at half staff and it was an amazing feeling for me.! I felt honored to do it for our country, veterans, and current service men & women.


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