What are the Ways of Showing Respect to Our National Flag?

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Our Great Nation’s flag symbolizes freedom and represents our country, the American people, and our values. But showing proper respect to the flag is essential if you want your patriotism to be truly meaningful.

This emblem has been used for everything from advertising to helping build a sense of community across varied cultures and can be seen in media, fashion, and sports. Yet, the average American flag owner knows little about the governmental guidelines regarding flag etiquette.

Without understanding the rules and etiquette of how to properly handle, display, and treat a flag, it’s difficult to know exactly how to show your national pride.

The United States Flag Code states that our flag “represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” So, in addition to singing the National Anthem and saying The Pledge of Allegiance, here are some other ways of showing respect to the American Flag and our nation.

United States Flag Etiquette

Great care must be taken to show respect for the national flag and the principles it symbolizes. The U.S. Flag code sets forth guidelines to treat the flag respectfully.

Proper Salutation

It is customary for civilians, non-military, and military personnel out of uniform to remove any hats and place their right hand over their heart to salute the flag. However, the United States Supreme Court determined this was not a mandatory action.

Members of the Armed Services, veterans, and uniformed personnel should perform a standard military salute in respect of the flag. In addition, the United States flag should never be dipped in salute to a person or thing.

No Markings or Drawings

The American flag should never have words, designs, or any type of mark drawn on or attached to it. Our nation’s flag is an emblem of display, and altering or creatively using the flag for artistic purposes is disrespectful.

However, the U.S. Flag Code does make an exception for patriotic organizations who wish to wear an American flag patch affixed to part of their official apparel or uniform.


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Not for Decoration or Advertisement

Advertisement posters and other forms of media should not be attached to a flagpole, and the American Flag shouldn’t be used to drape over items or cover a ceiling for practical or decorative purposes. It should also never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, or carrying items.

However, a big part of American culture is celebrating our patriotism, especially on the Fourth of July and other American-specific holidays. From backyard BBQs to Centennial corporate functions, you’ll find decorative accessories and American flag buntings festively strung everywhere.

While the bunting is acceptable, American flag plates, napkins, cups, and other disposable forms of advertising are meant to be unceremoniously tossed away. This contrasts with the desire to celebrate the spirit of patriotism and the wish to show respect to the flag.

While the Flag Code does say these things are acts of flag desecration, the Flag Protection Act of 1989 was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1990, stating that desecration of the flag was part of our freedom of expression; an American freedom protected by The First Amendment.

What counts is the sentiment behind the actions. Throwing away the paper flag napkin that you wiped your hands with isn’t considered disrespecting the flag because of the patriotic intentions behind the celebration. Using a paper napkin or plate with a flag on it shows that your patriotism is integrated with your everyday life.

Never Flat

The Flag Code states that the flag should never be carried or displayed horizontally or flat and should be kept flying aloft. The only exception to this code is the casket flag.

A casket flag, measuring 9½’ by 5’, is draped over the casket of veterans and fallen American Service personnel. Any patriotic person can give or receive this honor, but only those who served in the military will have their flags provided for them.

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Raising, Lowering, and Displaying the U.S. Flag

Whether it’s the ground, floor, water, or products and merchandise, a flag should be high enough that it doesn’t touch anything underneath. The American flag should always be flown higher than any other flag and raised before and lowered after any others so that the American flag is flying the longest.

Another way to show respect is to fly the flag at half-staff during periods of mourning called by the United States President or your State Governor. The flag shouldn’t touch the ground during its raising and lowering, and it should be raised to the top before being lowered to half-staff.

The Union part of the flag (the blue field with white stars) should always be flown on the observer’s top left side when displaying the flag in a vertical position. American flag owners are advised to properly clean and store their flags in a place where they won’t get damaged by water, mold, or faded by the sun.

Do Not Wear as Clothing

Wearing the flag as a costume or uniform is technically forbidden by the U.S. Flag Code, although a flag patch or pin is considered a replica and should be worn according to flag display guidelines. The most important thing to remember is that the Flag Code is only a set of guidelines, not a criminal code.

Flag-wearing standards in history have been controversial since the 1950s. During that time in American history, it became popular to wear the flag as a form of protest, either in support of the American involvement in Korea and Vietnam or as an anti-war protest.


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American Flag and Patriotic Apparel

Showing respect for the flag is more than just standing up during the National Anthem to salute this embodiment of the principles, history, and people of America. It means respecting rules and using your freedom of expression in your everyday life to share your patriotic values.

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All our top-quality t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, and more, are guaranteed to be 100% American-made. We take pride in our merchandise, patriotic message, and excellent customer service, so our customers can take pride in the apparel they wear.