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The American Flag

Learn about the American flag and how to display it.

Infographic: How to Display the American Flag

Learn when and how to display the American flag properly.

Infographic explaining how to display the American flag properly in different situations. View a larger version of the infographic.

Infographic explaining how to display the American flag properly in different situations.
  • The U.S. flag stands for our nation and the shared history, pride, principles, and commitment of its people. When we properly display this powerful symbol, we signal our respect for everything it represents.

    • The flag shouldn't be flown in inclement weather unless it’s an all-weather flag.

    • Flags displayed at night should be properly illuminated.

    • In a time of national mourning, hang the flag at half-mast.

    The flag can be flown every day, but it is often flown to show patriotism on these observances:

    • New Year's Day

    • Inauguration Day

    • Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

    • Lincoln's Birthday

    • Washington's Birthday (Presidents Day)

    • National Vietnam War Veterans Day

    • Easter Sunday

    • Armed Forces Day

    • Memorial Day

    • Flag Day

    • Independence Day

    • National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day

    • Labor Day

    • Constitution Day

    • Columbus Day

    • Navy Day

    • Veterans Day

    •  Thanksgiving Day

    • Christmas Day

    When displaying the flag…

    • From your porch, place the union (blue section) at the peak of the staff.

    • Against a wall or on a window, place the union (blue section) at the top left corner.

    • On your vehicle, clamp the staff to the right front fender.

    • With another flag, place the U.S. flag to your left when crossed.

    Keep your flag completely dry and folded properly — into a triangle, with the union (blue section) visible — before storing it in a well-ventilated area. If the flag is damaged or worn out, it should be disposed of with dignity.

    The flag should not touch anything below it or rest on the ground.

    Source: United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1–The Flag

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The American Flag and Its Flying Rules

The Flag of the United States of America is a symbol of freedom and liberty to which Americans pledge their allegiance. Standing at attention and facing the flag with their right hand over the heart, they recite:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The flag’s 13 alternating red and white stripes represent the 13 original colonies. Its 50 white stars on a blue field represent the 50 states. 

The colors on the flag represent:

  • Red: valor and bravery
  • White: purity and innocence
  • Blue: vigilance, perseverance, and justice

Guidelines for Displaying the Flag of the United States

If you need additional information or have a question, you can email the Department of State’s protocol office at protocolhelp@state.gov.

To order a U.S. flag that has flown over the Capitol, contact your senator's office.

Please note: According to U.S. Flag Code, a worn out American flag should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. 

Fly the American Flag at Half Staff

The United States flag flies at half staff when the nation is in mourning. These periods of mourning occur by presidential proclamation.

The president of the United States can direct how the executive branch of the government flies the flag, including traditions or customs for flying the flag at half staff.

While you can follow how the executive branch flies the flag, it is not a requirement. For instance, a local community, a company, a school district, or a federal agency can decide to have all of its flags at half staff because of the death of an employee, a student, a mayor, or a local police officer.

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Last Updated: October 10, 2019

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