Fly the flag right during the Fourth

Posted 7/3/19

While many Americans celebrate the Fourth of July by unfurling flags, not all displays of the flag are necessarily patriotic.

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Fly the flag right during the Fourth


While many Americans celebrate the Fourth of July by unfurling flags, not all displays of the flag are necessarily patriotic.

The U.S. Flag Code, specifically Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the U.S. Code, outlines all the specific rules and regulations for the treatment of the American flag, but many Americans unintentionally violate these standards out of ignorance or enthusiasm, according to Bob Saring, captain of the Honor Guard for the Marvin G. Shields Post 26 of the American Legion in Port Townsend.

Saring outlined some of the most common violations and/or areas of confusion regarding the flag, as follows:

1. Don’t fly the flag at night, unless you have lights on it.

2. Never fly the flag below any other banner.

3. You aren’t allowed to cut up a flag to make an article of clothing.

4. You are allowed to wear a shirt or another item of clothing that’s done up in patriotic red, white and blue colors, or that has other patterns inspired by the flag.

“When you see a photo of a model who’s naked and draped in the flag, that’s a violation of the Flag Code,” Saring said. “But that same model can be wearing a bikini that looks like a flag, and that’s permitted.”

5. When a flag is hung from a flagpole, the field of blue should appear on the left side of the flag, as you look at it.

“Even if you’re hanging a flag lengthwise, so the stripes are going vertically rather than horizontally, the field should remain on the left side as you’re looking at it, even though the flag might look backward to you,” Saring said.

Saring explained that, because Western European cultures such as ours are trained to look at things with their vision scanning from left to right, the field of blue is placed at the left relative to your line of sight so that it appears to be moving forward.

“You’ll see the flag placed on a number of police officers’ uniforms this way,” Saring said. “That way, the field of blue doesn’t appear to be retreating.”

6. There’s a proper protocol for retiring flags that are no longer serviceable.

“If you have an old flag, you don’t just throw it away,” Saring said.

The preferred way to destroy old, worn, frayed and/or faded U.S. flags is by burning them.

While flags have been burned as acts of desecration and rebellion, the U.S. Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8(k) states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Anyone is authorized to retire a U.S. flag, since the Flag Code does not authorize any particular organization with the duty of retiring unfit flags, but flags should be retired in private, at a non-public location, and the ceremony should be a solemn event.

Saring encouraged the public to bring their no-longer-serviceable flags to the Legion Post Hall in Port Townsend, or to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post near Chimacum.

VFW Post 7498 is located at 31 Matheson St. in Port Hadlock, while American Legion Post 26 is located at 209 Monroe St. in Port Townsend.

There are no penalties for violations of the federal law governing flag display.


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Tom Camfield

It's likely not covered in the flag code (which I haven't read since my Boy Scout days back in the early '40s), but—being part of that flag— I'm still offended when Donald Trump feels free to snatch it by its stripes and fondle it. See

Lord only knows how he'll treat it tomorrow on the Fourth of July.

Wednesday, July 3