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Proper Flag Etiquette To Follow During The July 4 Holiday; Includes Diagram of How to Properly Fold a Flag

By Anthony Wyatt

The proper folding of the American flag.

June 29, 2012. With July 4 rapidly approaching and patriotism in the air, many individuals turn to flying the American flag to show their support. However, when dealing with this esteemed and honored national symbol all should be aware of and follow proper flag etiquette. To know how to handle, care for and display the Stars and Stripes respectfully, here are a few tips from the experts.

For outside display, the first rule to follow is that “no part of it should touch the ground or any other object,” according to usflag.org. Therefore, when raising, lowering and transporting the American flag, use caution in order to assure that it is being treated reverently and handled carefully. 

When running the flag up and down a flagpole, “[it] should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously,” states americanflags.org. “The Flag of the United States is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered.”

“Ordinarily [the flag] should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night,” usflag.org states. These rules should be followed when using either a vertical flagpole or a wall mount for presenting the American flag. 

In the context of parades and other July 4 events where the flag is present, “it is appropriate to salute only the first US flag,” according to americanflags.org. “The flag should be in front of the marchers. At the moment the flag passes in a parade or procession, all persons should show respect. It is never appropriate to dip the American flag [as that] is a sign of subservience.”

Other rules of flag flying etiquette one should be conscious of include: the American flag should be the topmost and largest flag when flown with others on the same flagpole; if multiple flagpoles display multiple flags, the US flag should be in a position of distinction, preferably on the right; the American flag is always the first to be raised and the last to be lowered; and if flown in mourning, the flag should be raised only to half-staff.

An American flag flying at the 1861 Farmhouse in Valle Crucis. Photo by Maria Richardson

When not flying the flag, it should be kept clean and mended. Be aware of the fabric your flag is made of and get it dry-cleaned if necessary. “To store the flag,” usflag.org writes, “it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.” 

The American Flag Code does not specify how the flag is to be folded, so for home use it is acceptable to do so in a normal, but respectful, way. However, for military and other formal ceremonies, the standard 13-fold method is used. According to united-states-flag.com, “To specify, there should be two lengthwise folds and eleven triangular folds.”

If rips or tears render the flag unusable, “it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner,” states usflag.org. “Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14. Many Boy Scout Troops and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well. Contact your local American Legion Hall or Scout Troop to inquire about the availability of this service.”

During the July 4 holiday, and indeed at all times throughout the year, be conscious of proper flag etiquette. The flag is our national symbol, and it should always be treated with the respect, dignity and reverence it deserves. According to americanflags.org, “It is a symbol that each American should respect, for it represents the honor, courage and sacrifice of those who struggled to preserve the ideals upon which our country was founded: Freedom, justice and opportunity for all.”

For more information about American flag etiquette, visit the following sites: