Did you know that American Flag Protocol (or American flag etiquette) is actually part of federal law? It provides general guidelines to answer some common questions about how the American flag should be handled and displayed. Although it is federal law, there are no federal penalties imposed for failures to comply with the law.
While stationed at Los Angeles AFB, I drove by this motel on the way to work one morning and I noticed that the US flag was flying upside down. People were entering and leaving the building as if nothing was wrong. So, I pulled in and asked one of the workers if everything was okay in the building and I notified him that they were dislaying the flag upside down. He said everything was cool and he fixed the flag immediately, but he didn't understand why I was asking if everything was okay. So I explained to him that a US flag flying or displayed upside down is a distress signal (extreme danger to life or property).
Did you know that a US flag flying or displayed upside down is a distress signal?
I grew up in Southeast Washington DC and I remember visiting a couple of the military bases in the area when I was a kid. I lived up the hill from Bolling Air Force Base and I had an uncle who lived next to Andrews Air Force Base.
One of the coolest things was watching how everything on base stopped when the American flag was being lowered. I wasn't military back then and I was clueless as to why this was happening. I just thought it was cool to see everyone stop in their tracks while the flag was lowered. Plus, I was thinking, "Where is that music coming from?"
Fast forward a little...I learned quite a bit of flag protocol at the US Air Force Academy and Prep School. Reveille and Retreat were two of my favorite formations. I learned that there is a lot behind American flag protocol and there are some important things about the flag that every American would benefit from knowing. (The distress signal is one.)
Did you know that the American Flag Code is in Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code?
US Flag etiquette covers:
- Displaying the flag indoors
- Displaying the flag outdoors
- Standards of respect
- Pledge of Allegience and National Anthem
- Parading and saluting the flag
- The flag in mourning
Remember, I'm just trying to help a male military spouse avoid one of those moments when your ignorance is revealed...publicly. (I've been there and done that.) If you are a new male military spouse, the American Flag Code is something you want to check out.
Here are some links to get you started:
- Full text of United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, available at Cornell University Law School.
- Flag Rules and Regulations with examples and an FAQ
- TATTERED: Investigation of an American Icon a documentary photo essay, investigating the principle identity, misuse, commodification and desecration of the American flag in the context of the U.S. Flag Code.
Taurus James is the 2016 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year from Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Taurus is a 20-year civilian male military spouse and stay-at-home-dad. He is also a minister and composer of Moody instruMental Music. Taurus is a professional IT Consultant and Web Developer, and he built and maintains the Machospouse.com website for free. Find out more about Taurus through his blog: