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Rules and Guidelines of Flag Etiquette for Arcadians

The half-staff rule of flag etiquette can be quite indecisive and open to interpretation. – Courtesy photo

One man’s quiet quest to ensure proper display.

By Galen Patterson

Flying the American flag involves more than just quietly displaying national patriotism, because the practice comes with an entirely separate series of rules known as flag etiquette, one such rule is lowering the flag to half-staff.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization is a dedicated group of veterans who uphold military traditions in the civilian world. The VFW website lists the American flag to be flown at half-staff on “special days,” but when exactly these special days are can occasionally be open for interpretation.

After the death of former President Ronald Reagan, the flag was flown at half-staff. However, as in the case of the passing of Arizona Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, the half-staff rule of flag etiquette can be quite indecisive and open to interpretation.

Arcadia City Clerk and VFW member Gene Glasco received an email noting the flag on the recently renovated Vietnam War memorial in Arcadia Park was still at full-staff after McCain’s passing and before he was laid to rest.

“I told them it would be down in a few minutes. I grabbed a ladder, threw it in my car and went out there,” said Glasco.

Once Glasco had lowered the flag, he noticed a local business still had their flag fully raised. Glasco says he called the business and left an anonymous message for the manager about it, making they knew it was not mandatory to comply.

Later that day, Glasco noticed the Rusnak Mercedes dealership had lowered both of its flags out of respect for McCain. Even if they had not done so, none of these flags were ordered to be lowered by the federal government, thus leaving it up to the discretion of the people.

Glasco is a full-time patriot, the kind of guy who quietly replaces tattered flags around town, and then disposes of the damaged flags in ceremonious fashion with his VFW group. This process involves the folding and burning of the flag, then burying the ashes.

Flag etiquette can be tricky, and those who wish to display their patriotism must follow certain rules and guidelines in order to do so.

For example, the U.S. flag must always be at the top of a flag pole, and must not be used for decoration.

On Memorial Day, the flag must be raised to half-staff until noon, at which point it is fully raised.

The flag cannot touch the ground or it must be retired, it may not be defaced by drawing or fly upside down, unless in the case of an emergency.

Flags even have their own precise method of folding, and guidelines for storage.

However, like so many complicated things in life, there are ways of navigating proper flag etiquette.

One can simply download a flag etiquette app for mobile devices, like the Flag app by Colonial Flag.

By simply texting “Flag” to 35893, a free service will notify you whenever there is a need to fly the flag at half-staff.

It is the responsibility of all flag owners to properly display and care for their flags. They hold the sanctimony of national symbolism in their possession, more importantly, the symbol of the U.S., what it stands for and all those who came and died before us under its banner.

September 12, 2018

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Galen Patterson


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