Skip to main content

The American flag

Learn about the U.S. flag and when to fly the flag at half staff.

The American flag and its flying rules

The American flag is a symbol of freedom and liberty to which Americans recite the pledge of allegiance.

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 each have a meaning:

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

Follow these guidelines from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for displaying the U.S. flag.

Fly the American flag at half-staff 

The United States flag flies at half-staff or at half-mast when the nation or a state is in mourning. The president, a state governor, or the mayor of the District of Columbia can order flags to fly at half-staff. Most often, it marks:

  • The death of a government official, military member, or first responder
  • A national tragedy 
  • Memorial Day or another national day of remembrance

LAST UPDATED: July 14, 2023


Have a question?

Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They will get you the answer or let you know where to find it.