How to Properly Display the American Flag

Posted by Alexis C. on Feb 14, 2022

The American flag is a living symbol of the United States. This powerful symbol deserves the proper respect when being displayed. Luckily, the federal flag code has given us a set of guidelines for flag etiquette. While federal code does not contain penalties for not following these guidelines, most of us want to honor the American flag by correctly displaying it.

How do I correctly display the American flag with other flags?

When flying the American flag on the same pole as another flag, the other flag should always be below the U.S. flag.

If the American flag is flown on a separate flagpole next to flagpoles holding state and company flags, the U.S. flag should always be on the left-most pole ( the state flags should be in the order of when they were admitted to the union). The same applies to flying the United States flag next to other national flags (the nations following should be in alphabetical order). That being said, if you need to put the American flag between other flags, it should be in the middle or highest point.

If your presentation involves crossed poles, the U.S. flag should be on the viewer's left (the flag's right), and its pole should be in front of the other flagpole.

How do I correctly display the American flag with Armed Forces flags?

From the observer's point of view, the United States flag is flown on the left-most staff. Then, the military flags should be in the following order: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. This military flag order applies even without the American flag.

How do I correctly display the American flag at night?

The American flag should only be displayed at night if properly illuminated. Otherwise, the flag should only be flown from sunrise to sunset. Proper illumination means light is precisely placed to shine on the flag (preferred). Otherwise, there should be a light source sufficient to illuminate the flag so that it is recognizable as the U.S. flag by the casual observer.

How do I correctly display the American flag vertically?

If you want to hang the United States flag vertically, such as on a garden flagpole, the union must be shown on the left as viewed by passers-by.

How do I correctly display the American flag without a flagpole?

If you are displaying the U.S. flag without a staff, the flag should be hung vertically, whether indoors or out. It should be suspended so that its folds fall free as though the flag were on a flagpole. Always remember to never let the flag touch the ground.

If you want to hang the American flag against a wall, you can vertically or horizontally. However, the union, or blue field, should always be to the viewer's left (and the flag's right). Remember, fringed American flags should never be displayed against the wall. These flags need an indoor flagpole.

If you display the American flag in a window, the union should be to the observer's left from street view.

Hint: Remember the motto “The left has the stars, the right has the bars”

How do I correctly display the American flag on stage?

When displaying the flag of the United States on a flagpole in a public auditorium or church, the flag should hold the position of superior prominence at the speaker's or clergyman's right as they face the audience. The audience should see the flag on the left.

How do I correctly display the American flag during a parade?

The U.S. flag should be carried on the left, from the viewer’s perspective, when marching in a procession. Otherwise, the flag should be in the center of a line of flags. If the flag is being carried, use a parade belt and a pair of white parade gloves.

If the flag is displayed on a float, it should be on a flagpole or displayed adequately against a wall. The flag may also be firmly attached to a car's framework or attached to the right fender. It is against Flag Code to drape the U.S. flag over the sides, hood, top, or back of a car, train, or boat.

Reminder: when flying the American flag on a vehicle, you should never go over parade speed to avoid damaging the flag.

How do I correctly display the American flag on a casket?

The U.S. flag should be placed with the union covering the head and over the left shoulder of the casket. The flag should be kept in place during the burial ceremony and should never touch the ground at any time. The flag should be removed from the casket before burial at the ceremony's end.

After the ceremony, the flag should be folded into a triangle. The American flag should not be lowered into a grave or cover a headstone, statue, or monument. A US flag used in a burial ceremony should be appropriately stored in a display storage case.

While there are many ways to show off your American flag, the most important way is respectfully. To learn more about the federal flag code and the "what-not-to-do" s, check out our tips on Flag Law. 

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