Flying your flag—respectfully and proudlyFree Access

Flying your flag—respectfully and proudly

Like many Americans, I fly the United States flag. I also fly the Texas flag on the same flagpole. The Texas flag flies immediately below the national flag, but it could be flown at the same height if it were on its own separate flagpole, positioned to the left of the U.S. flag. 

Many people fly flags, most properly and in accordance with the Flag Code. If you want to check the Flag Code, many U.S. flags are sold with it on a leaflet enclosed with the flag. But you can also look it up if you have Internet access, and it is readily available to anyone who wants to know about it.

America will observe May 28 as Memorial Day, a day we not only fly the flag—but fly it at half-staff part of the day. When raising the flag to fly at half-staff it should be first raised to the top of the flagpole and then respectfully lowered to half-staff. It is also never lowered from half-staff, but should be raised to the top of the pole and then respectfully lowered to be removed from the flagpole.

The problem I see most with flags is that many are flown long after they have become unpresentable—faded, tattered or otherwise unserviceable. When the flags get to this condition they should be retired and replaced. Some advice: Buying a flag, you get what you pay for. A three by five-foot flag that sells for about nine dollars will look good for a while and then will fade and become tattered or otherwise damaged. This type of flag is fine for occasional flying but if you want to display the flag permanently, spend a little more and get a better and more durable one.

Something to consider: Most flags sold in stores are U.S. made. A top-quality flag will sell for about 25 dollars or more depending on the size. If you fly both the U.S. and State flags, they should be the same size and the U.S. flag is always flown in the more prominent place—above the state flag if flown on the same pole, or to the state flag’s right if flown on separate poles.

What should you do with a flag that has become worn, faded or tattered? It should be retired. Retiring a flag means it will not be flown again. It can be respectfully stored or respectfully destroyed. The preferred way to destroy a flag is to burn it.

Other flags can also be retired. For example, I have a flag that was presented to me when I retired from civil service at Kelly Air Force Base as the base was closed. It had been flown from the base flagpole prior to being retired and placed in a display case. If I wanted I could fly it, but as a memento of my years of association with the base I will keep it in retired status as long as I have it. 

This would also be true of flags used to drape coffins of veterans or others honored with a flag for a funeral service. These flags are also considered retired, although they are in good condition and could be flown, and some family members of those so honored might choose to fly the flag to honor the loved one.

Incidentally, any serviceable flag that was an official United States flag is legal to fly. If you have a 49-star or a 48-star flag you can fly it. That’s also true if you have an original 13-star flag or any of the many flags in between. All are symbols of America.

So, fly our flag with pride, and honor it as the symbol of our citizenship.  And give it the respect America’s symbol deserves. God bless America!

WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.

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