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Literally Cutting the American Flag


A tattered or faded American Flag is ready for retirement. Retiring an American flag means to burn it. Some people feel that burning a flag, no matter the situation, is still disrespectful. In the flag retirement situation, nothing could be further from the truth.

Burning and Burning
There is a big difference! Americans, who love their country and flag, do not treat that flag with disrespect. We do not just throw it away in the garbage when it is no longer fit for everyday display. There are exceptions to this with historic tattered flags on display across the country. When the flag is no longer suitable for daily display, we take the flag, fold it into a rectangle, and burn it. Some Americans feel the need to burn our country’s flag because they are unable to form a cogent, coherent argument and need to stand on a corner in front of others and push their disrespectful agenda in the face of others by flying a burning American flag.


Side note: I support freedom of speech and some view burning our flag as just that. I will defend the right of people who want to act irresponsibly and burn our flag. I do not like the action, but I do not have to watch and I can treat flags in my charge with respect and care as I hope you will.

The difference? Respect has everything to do with it.

Flag Retirement the Wrong Way


If you cut the stars from the stripes, it’s not longer the American flag and you can then feel better about burning it. I guess that is the illogical reasoning behind this act of initial disrespect to the flag to avoid disrespect to the flag.


Boy and Girl Scouts and many veteran organizations across the country are practicing this disrespect to our flag.

I do not know when or where it started, but it needs to stop right now! We need to educate cadets and Scouts as well as our well-meaning veterans.

Recently, I read a reply to my comment on a social media account that stated ‘since a flag company says on their website that it is OK, we are going to cut our flags.

Flag Retirement, the Correct Way
At home, make a fire on your grill. Fold your flag into a rectangle (no, it does not represent a casket) and place it on the fire. A flag folded into a triangle is much more difficult to burn due to all of the folded layers.


In a public ceremony, place the representative flag, folded in a triangle on a very hot fire and follow one of the ceremony guidelines linked below. Burn the rest of the flags eligible for retirement in an incinerator or a roaring fire, preferably not in public.


The National Flag Foundation’s Flag Retirement Ceremony

Click here to read the American Legion’s Unserviceable Flag Retirement Ceremony adopted in 1937.

As you can see, no one has ever advocated cutting the canton (blue field) from the stripes. It is extremely disrespectful to do so and it does not matter what some flag-based website has to say as far as a recommendation. Not even this one. I am providing links to professional guidance set forth by groups with the intention of providing the utmost respect.

Associated article: Disrespect to the American Flag

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Disrespect to the American Flag

Flag ceremonyBurning the America Flag
We, as Americans burn our beloved flag when it is old, worn and tattered. We burn it in a special Flag Retirement Ceremony. As a matter of fact, in many cities across America, scout and veteran groups take in flags for this specific purpose. They will ceremonially burn one flag representing all of the others (sometimes hundreds), and then incinerate the rest. This is a great way to show respect for Old Glory.

While I was on the Base Honor Guard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, (before the internet) I had a local woman call and explain that she had cleaned out her grill so that she could burn her own worn out American flag. She was very concerned and wanted to make sure that she was doing everything correctly. I assured her that what she had done was fine and thanked her for her diligence and respect and that it was what was in her heart that mattered and that it was quite obvious that she had every intention of utmost repsect. There is, however, another way to burn the flag.

American-flag-burningThe young man pictured at right is burning the American flag in protest. Many veterans and patriotic Americans find this so reprehensible that they support a Constitutional Amendment to make the act a crime. I do not support an amendment. You might be wondering how on earth, after 20+ years in the Air Force and JROTC/ROTC, etc. could I possibly say that? Freedom of speech.

“Don’t give me that ‘freedom of speech’ line!”
It is freedom of speech to burn the American flag. At least some see it that way. I, in no way, support burning the flag in protest, ever. I believe that those who do burn the flag most likely are unable to articulate their concerns and resort to such an inflammatory (no pun intended) action only to gain immediate publicity. Flag burning does nothing but make a large section of the American public dislike the people and their cause for which the crass action was committed. There are better ways to exercise your First Amendment rights, much better ways.

Upside down flagThe upside down flag
There is a short video of two protesters on a scooter riding around with the flag upside down [language] and a Soldier and Marine run after them wanting to do them physical harm. While I understand the passion these two military men have for their flag and country, what they did was not what America is about.

Upside down flagYou can see in these pictures, that even members and veterans of America’s military use the upside down flag- a symbol of distress and NOT disrespect– as a way to show their concern for America. I support this. I do not support writing on the flag unless absolutely necessary- but I cannot think of an instance where it may be necessary.

Lastly, on upside down flags, toward the end of the movie, The Last Castle, the commander of the military prison yells out something like, “don’t let them disrespect the flag!” as the prisoners are attempting, and rightfully so, to raise the flag upside down. I do not remember if the flag is actually raised, but it should be, in my opinion- watch the movie, it is quite good. The point here is that popular knowledge is usually based on information like this and then couples with the pride that swells in the hearts of the patriotic. All without basis in truth.

Upside down flagDisrespect to the flag is against the law!
No, it is not. Whether it is urban legend or just a lack of education on the subject, one can wipe their feet with the Stars and Stripes, if one so chooses, in front of the police and not be taken into custody.

I have written all kinds of articles regarding the proper use and display of our flag and have researched all the information I could find. While I do not expect every American to fully know all of the Flag Code and what guidance each branch of our armed forces has published, I do hope that Americans, especially my military brothers and sisters, read up and understand this published guidance.


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What's Wrong with This Parade Picture?

I haven’t posted one of these in a while. So, what is wrong with this picture? The flag is being carried by some great US marines in a parade. And let’s be clear, everyone involved is well-intentioned and I am not pointing things out to put down any individual. However, there is a Flag Code and what I’m abut to point out is quite clear.

The “Wrongs” of this Picture

  1. A flag is never to be carried flat, always aloft and free. So, the other mistakes only compound this. Yes, I understand that America has presented her flag flat on football fields and elsewhere for years now, but that does not negate the fact the we are not supposed to do it. “Aloft and free” has meaning. Draped over a casket is an entirely different subject.
  2. The blue field or, canton, is supposed to be either:
    1. On the right side of the photo- think of the six Marines as pall bearers, the canton must be over the left shoulder of the deceased while the casket is carried feet first, or
    2. At the leading edge on the left of the picture.
  3. Technically, the flag should be held taught.

Like I said in number one, the flag is not carried flat. Period. The other mistakes are merely incidental.

Photo: A friend passed this along to me and I do not know the origin.

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The American Flag at Half-Staff

Staff = on land
Mast = at sea or on a Navy/Marine installation

Never fly a fringed flag on a stationary or mounted (on a wall or post) flagstaff. See this article for information.

Many countries fly their flag at half-staff for special occasions and you can see when to fly the flag at half-staff on the widget on my main page at the right-hand side, but here is some interesting information on when to fly our flag at half-staff:

  • For thirty days after the death of a current or former president or president-elect.
  • For ten days after the death of a current vice president, current or retired chief justice, or current speaker of the House of Representatives.
  • From the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.
  • On the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.
  • On Memorial Day until noon.
  • Upon presidential proclamation.
  • Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), unless that day is also Armed Forces Day.
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7).
  • Patriot Day (September 11).
  • The first Sunday in October for National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day
    4 U.S.C. § 7(m) was modified by President Bush in 2007 requiring any federal facility within a region to honor a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who died on active duty.

The when is taken care of, but how is flying the flag at half-staff accomplished?

Raise the flag as normal, quickly to the top and then slowly to half-staff. When the flag is ready to come down, raise it quickly to the top and then lower it slowly all the way down.

What’s a Mourning Ribbon?

A black ribbon that is attached to the top of the flagstaff- yes, above the American flag- for occasions of mourning. See the picture at left and right. These two flags pictured cannot be brought to half-staff, so the mourning ribbon signifies the occasion.

What about when other flags fly with it? Don’t all of the flags need to be flown at half-staff?

Yes, and no. American state flags are given the same consideration in each state as the American flag. Our Founding Fathers gave the term “United ‘States'” to all of the territories which was shocking back then since “state” means a nation. Each American state has its own laws concerning their flag. Here is information concerning Maryland’s flag laws as an example. The picture here of the DC police (from with all three flags lowered is fine for the United States. However, lowering anything other than an American, state and territory flags is in keeping with the reason behind the flag being at half-staff: organizational flags, really any other flag (in America, that is) should be lowered to half-staff since they would be higher than the American flag even though they have no part in rendering the honor or signaling mourning. It is a similar situation like we see next.

But the American flag is lower than the other flags in this picture!

Take some deep breaths, you’re missing the point here. Not all countries have to lower their flags and not all flags must be at the same height all of the time. This 1968 photo, by John Wright on Smugmug, is from the Viet Nam war. The picture is from when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It was not necessary for another country to lower their flag. This situation is proper.

A similar situation is when an overseas military installation loses one of its active duty members. It is a sad, solemn occasion and the installations American flag is flown at half-staff for a short period as a signal to all that the base lost one of its own. The host nation’s flag do not need to be brought to half-staff; it is not necessary. The liaison to the base can say otherwise. The point here is not stop getting worked up over something that is relatively trivial. Don’t just think you know the rules, read them and have them ready as a reference.

What about other flags at half-staff and the American flag at full staff?

Some states may have an occasion to do this and it would not be appropriate for the American flag to be flown at half-staff. Here is an example:

What about a flag draped on a casket?

See here.

What if I want my dog to crawl from under the flag while it is on the floor? The dog means no disrespect.

I’m sure it doesn’t! However, I’d like to draw your attention to some key words here, the flag is on the floor. It is also draped over an animal, not a casket and not flying free. Does that give you any clue as to how disrespectful it is? Folks, this is not my photo, I’m just using it to illustrate a point. And yes, I was told that the dog does not mean any disrespect when I told the owner of the photo that the dog is cute but the flag on the floor isn’t cute.

Many people have the wrong thing and keep doing it because they don’t know what is proper or don’t care what is proper. Flag Etiquette from

I’ll title the following photos that I found on the web (you can click each picture):


I guess that’s enough for this article. Questions or comments? Please let me know!