The History and Care of Our Flag
Any time our military has fought on foreign soil, Americans have displayed the flag as an important way for those of us at home to express our support and prayers for the courageous young women and men serving our country. Our American Flag has long exemplified the spirit of those who fought valiantly and survived. It stands for the freedom that so many other countries in the world are just now beginning to experience. It stands for us and, heaven permit, it will fly for our children and our children's children in the land still strong and free. Oliver Wendell Holmes may have said it best: "One Flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one nation, evermore!"
The Flag Act
On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first flag act: "Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
The flag of the United States today has 13 stripes -- seven red and six white -- and 50 white stars on a blue field. The stripes remind us of the 13 original colonies that gained us liberty. The stars represent the states that are bound together.
In 1892, Francis Bellamy, a journalist, wrote the Pledge of Allegiance as a tribute to the flag on the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America.
When to Display the Flag
It is the universal custom to display the national flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open on all days that weather permits, but especially on national and state holidays and other days that may be proclaimed by the President of the United States. On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be half-staff until noon, then be raised to the peak.
The U.S. flag should be displayed daily on or near the main building of every public institution, during school days in or near every schoolhouse, and in or near every polling place on election days. A citizen may fly the flag at any time.
The U.S. flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness. Always hoist the U.S. flag briskly. Lower it ceremoniously.
When flown at half-staff, the U.S. flag should be first hoisted to the peak for a moment and then lowered to the half staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.
When to Salute the Flag
* When the flag is passing in a parade or in a review.
* During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering.
* When the National Anthem is played and the flag is displayed.
* During the Pledge of Allegiance.
All persons except those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those in uniform should give the military salute.
The flag should be saluted at the moment it passes in a parade or in review. Citizens of other countries should stand at attention, but need not salute.
* show disrespect to the U.S. flag in any way;
* dip the U.S. flag to any person or thing;
* allow the U.S. flag to touch anything beneath it -- the ground, floor, water or merchandise;
* display the U.S. flag with the union (blue field with stars) down except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property;
* use the U.S. flag as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery, drawn back, or up in folds;
* place anything on the U.S. flag; or
* display the U.S. flag from a float, car or boat except from a staff, or so suspended that the folds fall free as though staffed.
The U.S. Flag Always Leads
When carried in a procession with another or other flags, the U.S. flag should be either on the marching right (the flag's own right) or, if there is a line of other flags, in front center of that line. The U.S. flag should form a distinctive feature at the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument, but should never be used as the covering for a statue or monument. When other flags are flown from the same rope, the U.S. flag should always be at the center and highest point of the group. When other flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the U.S. flag should be hoisted first and lowered last. No flag may fly above or to the right of the U.S. flag.
When on Display
When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the U.S. should be in the position of honor at the clergy or the speaker's right as he or she faces the audience (the left of the audience). Any other flag so displayed is to be placed to the speaker's left as he or she faces the audience (the right of the audience).
If displayed flat against a wall on a speaker's platform, the U.S. flag should be placed above and behind the speaker. When displayed either horizontally or vertically the union or stars of the flag should be at the observer's left.
When the U.S. flag is used to cover a casket, it should be placed so that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
How to Dispose of Worn Flags
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 in private.
Moments in History
| June 14, 1777 - The Continental Congress adopts a 13-star, 13-stripe national flag.
January 13, 1794 - Congress adds two stars and two stripes to the flag after Vermont and Kentucky join the Union.
September 13-14, 1814 - Francis Scott Key writes the "Star Spangled Banner" as he sees the flag flying over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore Harbor after a British bombardment.
1818 - Congress returns the 13 original stripes to the flag and decides to add a new star for each new state accepted into the Union.
1892 - The Pledge of Allegiance appears in the Youth's Companion magazine.
1942 - Congress establishes a code of how the American flag should be handled and displayed.
February 23, 1945 - The American flag is raised over Iwo Jima after the United States captures the island during WWII.
1949 - Congress establishes June 14 as Flag Day.
July 4, 1960 - The 50th star is added a year after Hawaii becomes the 50th state.