The American Flag

Learn about the American flag and how to display it.

The American Flag and Its Protocol

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

"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 consists of 13 alternating red and white stripes that represent the 13 original colonies, and 50 white stars on a blue field, with each star representing a state. 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 require additional information or direction, call the Ceremonials Division of the Department of State's Office of the Chief of Protocol at 1-202-647-1735.

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

Please note: According to U.S. Flag Code, when an American flag appears worn or otherwise no longer appropriate for display, you should destroy it in a dignified way, preferably by burning. 

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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.

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

How to Display the American Flag

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

  • Lincoln’s Birthday

  • Washington’s Birthday

  • Armed Forces Day

  • Memorial Day

  • Flag Day

  • Independence Day

  • Labor Day

  • Patriot 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

Brought to you by USA.gov

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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 their 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: July 17, 2017

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