Few sights are as stirring to patriotic American hearts as the sight of Old Glory flying proudly against a blue sky. This year on Flag Day, June 14, millions of Americans across the country will display the American flag and honor all it represents.
If you'll be among those flying the Stars and Stripes on Flag Day, you may decide to leave it out through the rest of the patriotic summer holidays, including Independence Day. What will you do with it afterward? Will you take your flag down and store it in the garage, the attic or a cardboard box?
Because the flag represents some very important and uniquely American ideals, it requires special care, handling and respect.
Displaying the flag
While flying the American flag is an honored, moving way to show your patriotism, it's important to respectfully follow protocol. Military.com says these rules apply to displaying the flag:
- Do so between sunrise and sunset. If you want to display the flag at night, it should be illuminated.
- Display the U.S. flag above all others you might also display on a single staff. For example, if you'll be placing your state's flag on the same pole, the American flag should be highest on the staff.
- Hang your flag so that the blue star field - called the union - is in the uppermost corner of the flag and to the left when you're facing the flag.
Storing your flag
Military.com says you should never allow your flag to touch the ground, even when you're taking it down. To store your flag, neatly fold it into the traditional triangle. Not sure how to turn the rectangular flag into a triangle? Check out the Boy Scout's instructional video on how to properly fold the Stars and Stripes. The VFW also offers an illustrated guide to folding the flag. Store your flag somewhere sensible and respectful, and where it won't get dirty or damaged.
When you fly your flag, it will be out in the elements and it could get dirty. It's perfectly OK to wash a soiled flag, as long as you do so in a respectful manner, according to the USA Flag Site. You can either spot wash soiled areas or gently wash the entire flag. If your flag becomes too worn or dirty to use, you need to dispose of it properly.
Disposing of a Flag
Burning is the preferred method for retiring a flag, according to the U.S. Flag Code. Assuming local ordinances and safety allow you to burn the flag in your area, the VFW says you should fold the flag in a triangle before placing it into the flames. The fire needs to be big enough and hot enough to completely incinerate the flag. Anyone witnessing the retirement should give a display of respect, such as standing at attention, saluting the flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or observing a moment of silence.
Of course, burning isn't always practical or possible. The Boy Scouts suggest other respectful ways to dispose of a retired flag, including recycling.