How to Respect the American Flag

Handling & Care

The American flag is a representation of our country, our people, and our devotion to our nation. Respecting the American flag and the principles that it symbolizes requires us to treat it with a high level of care at all times. The United States Flag Code sets forth key guidelines for properly handling the American flag. The purpose of this article is to summarize the guidelines in the U.S. Code that relate to the display, use and care of the American flag.

How to Display the American Flag

According to the recommendations in the U.S. Code, the American flag should be displayed with respect and care.

  • The flag should not be flown with the union down (except for in rare emergencies as a sign of distress).
  • The flag should not touch the ground, floor, water, merchandise or anything beneath it.
  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally but always aloft and free.
  • The flag should not be dipped to any person or thing.

How to Respectfully Use the American Flag

American flag coffee cups, sweatshirts and curtains are not patriotic; on the contrary, U.S. Code considers these to be disrespectful toward the flag.

  • The flag should never be worn as apparel or used as bedding, curtains or covering for a ceiling.
  • The flag should not be used for advertising purposes. For example, the flag should not be embroidered or printed on cushions, napkins, boxes or anything else that is discarded after temporary use. Advertisement posters should not be attached to a flagpole.
  • The flag should never have words, designs or any other mark drawn or attached to it. It is not respectful to “get creative” and make new art from a US flag.
  • The flag should not be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
  • The flag should not be used for delivering, carrying or receiving something.

How to Care for the American Flag

Finally, having respect for the flag means keeping it in a good condition. One should make sure their flag is clean, dry and protected from harsh conditions.

  • The flag should never be stored or used in a way that it could be easily torn or damaged.

The American flag is more than the cloth and colors that we see. The flag embodies the principles, history and people who make the United States what it is.