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Fri, Dec. 04

Take our US flag etiquette quiz

Parade-goers bow their heads as the U.S. Flag is displayed during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Prescott Veterans Day Parade. The 2020 parade will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 11. (Tim Wiederaenders/Courier, file)

Parade-goers bow their heads as the U.S. Flag is displayed during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Prescott Veterans Day Parade. The 2020 parade will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 11. (Tim Wiederaenders/Courier, file)

A number of years ago my wife Debbie and I put together a brief U.S. flag etiquette quiz for a local Boy Scout activity. I found myself presenting the quiz for discussion at various speaking engagements.

There’s something special about this symbol of the United States that swells far beyond our borders. Even when America may be the target of criticism and ridicule, the U.S. flag rises above the clamor.

Try your hand at this U.S. flag etiquette quiz. (Find answers below.)

Flag Etiquette Quiz

  1. True or False: The flag may be flown every day and in any weather condition.
  2. True or False: The flag is usually flown from sunrise to sunset.
  3. Can the flag be flown at night?
  4. We've noted times when the flag can be flown, but when is the flag expected to be flown?
  5. What pace do you use when hoisting and lowering the flag?
  6. When should a flag be flown at half-staff?
  7. What must you do before setting a flag at half-staff, or when lowering a flag from half-staff?
  8. On what day do you fly the flag at half-staff until noon, and then hoist it to full-staff?
  9. When is the only time a United States flag should be flown upside down?
  10. What is the rope or cord on a flagpole called?
  11. How many people (minimum) should be used to raise the flag? Why?
  12. When the flag has left the arms of the first person, what should he or she do?
  13. What is important to remember when flying the U.S. flag with any state or auxiliary flag?
  14. What about with other national flags such as at the Olympic games?
  15. Should a flag be carried flat during parades?
  16. On what side should the flag be placed during a parade if carried with other flags arranged in a row?
  17. When is it appropriate to dip the flag in salute during a parade or procession?
  18. When displayed on a staff, on what side of the speaker should the flag be placed in a church, synagogue, temple or auditorium?
  19. When displayed hanging vertically, what side should the blue field be on?
  20. When hung over the center of a street, which direction should the blue field of the flag face?
  21. How and when should a flag be disposed of?
  22. When does the flag outside the White House not fly?
  23. Is it appropriate to wear articles of clothing made with the symbols of the U.S. flag?

Answers to Flag Etiquette Quiz

  1. True or False: The flag may be flown every day and in any weather condition. (True, as long as it is made of all-weather material.)
  2. True or False: The flag is usually flown from sunrise to sunset. (True.)
  3. Can the flag be flown at night? (Yes, but only if it is properly lit.)
  4. We've noted times when the flag can be flown, but when is the flag expected to be flown? (On all national and state holidays and other days proclaimed by the president.)
  5. What pace do you use when hoisting and lowering the flag? (Hoist it briskly and lower it slowly.)
  6. When should a flag be flown at half-staff? (To show sorrow and mourning following a national tragedy, the death of a president or other national or state figure, or to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for their country.)
  7. What must you do before setting a flag at half-staff, or when lowering a flag from half-staff? (Hoist the flag to the top of the pole, hold it for an instant, and then lower it.)
  8. On what day do you fly the flag at half-staff until noon, and then hoist it to full-staff? (On Memorial Day.)
  9. When is the only time a United States flag should be flown upside down? (Only when used as a distress signal to call for help.)
  10. What is the rope or cord on a flagpole called? (A halyard.)
  11. How many people (minimum) should be used to raise the flag? Why? (Two. One person holds the flag and prevents it from touching the ground. The other person attaches the flag to the flag line, or halyard.)
  12. When the flag has left the arms of the first person, what should he or she do? (When the flag is flowing freely, they should step back and salute the flag if in uniform, or place hand over heart, as the other person ties the halyard to the flagpole. It's just the opposite when lowering the flag.)
  13. What is important to remember when flying the U.S. flag with any state or auxiliary flag? (The U.S. flag should never fly lower than the state flag. It is hoisted first and lowered last.)
  14. What about with other national flags such as at the Olympic games? (Level with other national flags.)
  15. Should a flag be carried flat during parades? (The flag is not supposed to be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. See U.S. Flag Code Section 8c interpretation. I include the flag code and section source here because some people will debate this answer. Parade organizers may justify breaking this rule because some flags are too large to be carried aloft during parades and other events. To me, it’s all about respect. So while the flag should be allowed to fly freely, if it’s a large flag being carried flat during a parade and handled with respect — as illustrated by the ROTC cadets in our front page photo — then I think that’s perfectly acceptable. On a related note: The flag should never be strapped flat, or draped over a vehicle.)
  16. On what side should the flag be placed during a parade if carried with other flags arranged in a row? (The farthest to its own right, or in front of the center of that line. Note: When flying at equal heights, the U.S. flag should either be out in front, or farthest to its own right.)
  17. When is it appropriate to dip the flag in salute during a parade or procession? (Never. The U.S. flag should not be dipped in salute to any person or thing.)
  18. When displayed on a staff, on what side of the speaker should the flag be placed in a church, synagogue, temple or auditorium? (In most cases, the correct answer is on the speaker's right. However, we found several sources explaining how colors are posted differently when placed on a platform (stage) than when placed on the floor. According to one source from Cornell University, when both flag and speaker are on the same level the U.S. flag is placed to the right of the speaker. But when the speaker is on a platform and the flag is to be placed on the floor -- or at any point that is lower than the speaker -- the U.S. flag is then placed to the left of the speaker.)
  19. When displayed hanging vertically, what side should the blue field be on? (On the flag's own right.)
  20. When hung over the center of a street, which direction should the blue field of the flag face? (North, on an east/west street. East, on a north/south street.)
  21. How and when should a flag be disposed of? (The United States flag should be disposed of in a dignified way, preferably by burning. It should not be flown when tattered and torn, dirty, significantly faded, or when it is no longer a fitting emblem for display.)
  22. When does the flag outside the White House not fly? (When the president is not in Washington, D.C.)
  23. Is it appropriate to wear articles of clothing made with the symbols of the U.S. flag? (The U.S. Flag Code specifies, "The U.S. flag should not be made into an article of clothing." This is another area of debate when it comes to flag etiquette. For many veterans, a necktie, hat, or shirt that has red and white stripes and a blue field with white stars is considered disrespectful. An article of clothing that has red, white, and blue stripes, but not stars, is not generally considered to be the U.S. flag, but still conveys the notion of patriotism while adhering to the rules outlining the proper display of the flag.)

Again, this suggested etiquette is derived from the idea that the U.S. flag deserves a high level of respect and dignity. Clothing that can be soiled and stained does not convey such respect or dignity.

Note: The flag should also not be used in advertising. It should not be used on napkins, boxes, or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.

Sources for this flag quiz include the American Legion, which played a key role in drafting the Flag Code; U.S. Boy Scout and U.S. military handbooks and other flag reference websites and books. If there are any errors or changes in flag etiquette that you are aware of, please feel free to e-mail me at rhaddad@westernnews.com.

A few interesting facts about the U.S. flag

THE DESIGN

In 1777 Congress made the resolution that determined the design of the first American flag.

It called for 13 stripes — 7 red, 6 white — and 13 stars. However, it was not specific about the arrangement of the stars.

The circle of stars was most common, but other flags included a large star in the center with twelve stars around it. There were many other variations.

MORE STARS AND STRIPES

In 1795 Congress voted to increase the number of stars and stripes to 15 as new states joined the union.

BACK TO 13 STARS

In 1818 (23 years later) legislation was enacted to reestablish the number of stripes at 13 and institute the policy of adding a new star upon the admission of every new state.

COLORS

The colors on the U.S. Flag represent:

White: Purity and Innocence (Liberty);

Red: Hardiness and Valor (Bravery);

Blue: Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.

What does the blue or red line mean on some U.S. Flags being flown in recent years?

THIN BLUE LINE FLAG

In recent years, America has seen the emergence of U.S. Flags with variations.

For example, Oxford Dictionaries explains that a “thin blue line” on a U.S. Flag is a reference to police, “in the context of maintaining order during unrest.”

The flag, which shows a blue stripe in place of one of the flag’s standard 13 red stripes, is also used by many to show support for all law enforcement in the United States.

THIN RED LINE FLAG

Likewise, there are also flags with a thin red line.

The red stripe is meant to represent courage, or the last ounce of courage firefighters find deep in their blood to conquer their darkest fears in order to save and protect life and property.

For many firefighters and their families, the thin red line flag is a symbol of honor and respect.

CONTROVERSY

Both flags can be controversial as some states have questioned whether the added lines are a violation of the U.S. Flag Code.

The code specifically states, “The flag should never have placed upon it, nor any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

In addition, the “thin blue line” flag also has been associated, at times, with controversial groups. Some communities have banned the thin blue line flags.

Richard Haddad is the editor of Prescott News Network. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and also served in the Air National Guard.

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