The flag of the United States of America is a powerful symbol. It has been saluted in respect and it has been burned in protest. Although “just a piece of cloth” to some, those of us whose hearts and minds are full of patriotism understand its importance.
The Flag Code was last revised in 2015. There are some aspects of this code that some people seem not to know. For example, Section 174 subsection (a) of the code states “It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.” (emphasis added) Therefore, if you are leaving your flag displayed 24 hours a day, make sure it is lighted at night; this can easily be accomplished with a properly placed solar-powered light, or if your flag is hanging from a staff on your house, you can leave a porch or exterior garage light on at night.
Did you know that there are 18 days that the Flag Code states should absolutely have the flag displayed? These are New Year’s Day, Inauguration Day (Jan. 20), Martin Luther King Day, Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday (third Monday in February), Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May), Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day (July 27), Labor Day, Constitution Day, Columbus Day, Navy Day (Oct. 27), Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, and “such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States as well as the days of admission for states, and State holidays.”
Did you know that at all meetings, whether in homes or other places, the American flag should always be placed to the right of the speaker as he is facing his audience? I got into a deep discussion with a minister once who misinterpreted this part of the Flag Code and had the Christian flag on his right with the U.S. flag on his left as he faced the congregation. I finally convinced him to switch the positions by asking him which flag was nearest and dearest to his heart. I knew what his answer would be — sure enough, he said the Christian flag. I informed him that in that case he should put the Christian flag on his left so it would be closer to his heart. Whatever works to accomplish the necessary, right?
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of our great nation. There have been a number of occasions when I have seen the flag in some form or another used in a manner that does not show proper respect, yet I knew no disrespect was intended. However, the Flag Code states in Section 176 subsection (i) that “the flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.” This makes me wonder if the U.S. Government isn’t violating its own Flag Code by having stamps with a picture of the U.S. flag on them.
One statement that appears in the Flag Code took me by surprise: “The flag represents a living country, and is itself considered a living thing.” That same subsection of Section 176 goes on to read that a “lapel flag pin being a replica should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.”
Let’s show proper respect for that “piece of cloth.”
Sunni Bond is a resident at Wesley Commons. She is an experienced genealogist. Her short stories have been published by Island Writers Network, Hilton Head Island. Nonfiction articles have been published by Heritage Library, Hilton Head Island.