Has anyone noticed that there are fewer American flags flying in the valley these days?  Has patriotism suddenly disappeared?  I think not, my guess is that while hundreds of flags were prominently displayed in the aftermath of September 11th, many of them are no longer fitting for display and have been taken down and not replaced.

Section 4 of the United States Flag Code 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.”

While many flags “unfit for display” have been removed, quite a few worn, torn, and faded flags remain, including those at some post offices, schools and other public buildings—and they should be replaced.  Our national colors are red, white and blue, but the Colorado sun can cause “Old Glory” to fade into rose, ashen and cobalt in no time.

And speaking of colors, how many of us know the meaning of the colors of our flag?  Red stands for courage.  White is the symbol of purity and innocence.  Blue is the color of vigilance, perseverance and justice.  And it’s no coincidence that these are the colors of the British Union Jack that once flew over the colonies.

Most everyone knows that the thirteen red and white stripes signify the original thirteen colonies and the 50 stars on the blue field known as “the union” represents the 50 states.  But what about the gold trim found on some flags?  These flags were intended to be used indoors and for ceremonies only, and were originally used on military flags.  The gold fringe itself has no specific significance, but is considered completely within the guidelines of proper flag etiquette.

When displayed on buildings and stationary flagpoles outdoors the flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset.  However, by Executive Order, the flag flies 24 hours a day at the following locations:

  • The Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • The White House, Washington, D.C.
  • U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.
  • Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.
  • Iwo Jima Memorial to U.S. Marines, Arlington, Virginia
  • Battleground in Lexington, MA (site of first shots in the Revolutionary War)
  • Winter encampment cabins, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
  • Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland (a flag flying over Fort McHenry after a battle during the War of 1812 provided the inspiration for The Star Spangled Banner.
  • The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, Baltimore, Maryland (site where the famed flag over Fort McHenry was sewn)
  • Jenny Wade House in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Jenny Wade was the only civilian killed at the battle of Gettysburg)
  • U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
  • All custom points and points of entry into the United States

The flag should not be displayed at all during stormy or rainy weather unless for some very special reason, and in no case should the flag ever touch the ground—it should always be raised briskly…and lowered slowly and solemnly.

When the flag is displayed horizontally or vertically flat against a wall or similar place, the “union” i.e. the blue field, must be at the left of a person facing it; this is also true when used on a speaker’s platform.  It must also be above and behind the speaker if placed flat.  However, if the flag is flown from a staff, it is placed at the speaker’s right.

When our flag passes in a parade (let’s say at our 4th of July parade,) proper protocol dictates that people stand as the flag passes and men not in uniform should take off their hats.  In pledging allegiance to he flag, people should face the flag with their right hands over their hearts.

The primary display dates for the American flag are:  January 1st, Martin Luther King Day, Inauguration Day (January 20th) Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12th) Washington’s Birthday (third Monday in February,) Army Day (April 6th) V-E Day (May 8th) Mother’s Day, (second Sunday in May,) Armed Forces Day (third Sunday in May,) Memorial Day (at half staff until noon,) last Monday in May, Flag Day, (June 14th) Independence Day (July 4th) Labor Day (first Monday in September,) V-J Day (September 2nd) Anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner (September 14th) Constitution Day, (September 17th) Columbus Day (second Monday in October,) Navy Day, (October 27th) Presidential Election Day (first Tuesday after the first Monday in November,) The Marine Corps Birthday (November 10th) Veterans Day (November 11th) Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November,) and Christmas Day.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge our local VFW Post that has already supplied over 100 flags to schools in the valley in order to have one in every classroom as well as to replace their old tattered flags.  Many of us should consider doing the same for our homes and businesses.