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Tomorrow is POW-MIA Recognition Day

466px-United_States_POW-MIA_flag.svgThe third Friday of each September is set aside by law, as National POW-MIA Recognition Day, and today I want to cover the protocol for flying the POW-MIA flag. Tomorrow I’ll write about the flag, and how it came to be, and what it means to Americans.

Tomorrow the U.S. Flag flies at full staff, with the POW-MIA flag, on the same pole flying directly underneath. Federal and military installations do not fly state flags, which is why the POW-MIA flag flies on the same pole.

The 105th Congress designated by law, with the passage of Section 1082(g) within the 1998 Defense Authorization Act—(linked here, but I have included the entire text at the end of this article), that the POW-MIA flag is to be flown at all Federal and U.S. Military Installations on these six days: Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, POW-MIA Recognition Day, and Veterans Day. On holidays when the National flag is half-staffed, then the POW-MIA flag is half-staffed also.

The federal installations are:

The Capitol building and the White House, in Washington D.C.

The Korean War and Vietnam Veterans War Memorials,

Every National Cemetery

Any building containing the official offices of the Secretary of State

The offices of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The offices of the Director of the Selective Service System

Every Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Every U.S. Post Office (which are not permitted to fly state flags)

All national parks and national monument sites

The information below should be carefully noted because of the specificity.

(2) In addition to the days specified in paragraph (1) of this
    subsection, POW/MIA flag display days include –
        (A) in the case of display at the World War II Memorial, Korean
      War Veterans Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial (required by
      subsection (d)(3) of this section), any day on which the United
      States flag is displayed;
        (B) in the case of display at medical centers of the Department
      of Veterans Affairs (required by subsection (d)(7) of this
      section), any day on which the flag of the United States is
      displayed; and
        (C) in the case of display at United States Postal Service post
      offices (required by subsection (d)(8) of this section), the last
      business day before a day specified in paragraph (1) that in any
      year is not itself a business day.

Sections (A) and (B) mean that the POW-MIA flag is to always be flown at these locations on any day the U.S. flag is displayed. In practice, this would be very day of the year.

Section (C), which applies to U.S. Post Offices, means that the POW-MIA flag is to be flown the day before the designated holiday, if the day falls on a national holiday when the post office is not open (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day).

How should civilians fly the POW-MIA flag?

Last spring I contacted the office of one of my federal senators representing Texas, Sen. John Cornyn. I requested a finding from the Congressional Research Service, which exists to support members of Congress and their staffs on research inquiries. I received it in July.

I was flummoxed by the fact that the precise instructions for flying the POW-MIA flag only addresses federal and military installations, yet is carefully outlined in Title 36, Section 902 of the United States Code, which is written for civilians.

The Congressional Research Service was unable to find any further instruction regarding civilian flag protocol for the POW-MIA flag. Other VSOs (veterans service organizations) have asked for clarifying legislation, but nothing has changed yet. Civilian protocol is silent on this problem.

Incredibly, protocol for POW-MIA flag, the most highly esteemed flag of all VSOs, is not addressed for civilians in the U.S. Code, which is written for civilians. So it becomes necessary to establish a civilian POW-MIA flag protocol based on existing law.

Allow me to use the state of Texas as an example. All state flags may fly equal to, but never higher than the U.S. flag, if flown on separate poles. The Texas flag code says that only the U.S. flag can fly above the Texas flag, if the two flags are flown on the same pole.  According to the Texas flag code, the POW-MIA flag could never be flown above the Texas state flag. Other states follow the same protocol. The flag code never changes the order of precedence.

The Conclusion for civilians—how to do it

Civilians are not required to fly the POW-MIA flag, but if you want to, this is how to do it, after you sort out the flag code and flag precedence.

On the six designated holidays, when the U.S. Code calls for the POW-MIA flag to be flown underneath and next to the U.S. flag, and if there is only one flagpole in use, do not fly the state flag.

On the six designated holidays, if there are two poles in use, the POW-MIA flag flies underneath and next to the U.S. flag, and the state flag flies on the next pole. On non-holidays, the POW-MIA flag can still be flown underneath and next to the U.S. flag, because it is not higher than a state flag.

If there are three poles in use, and it is NOT one of the six designated POW-MIA flag flying days, then the POW-MIA flag would fly third in order of precedence, or on the third pole. It could still be flown underneath and next to the U.S. flag (which is the preferred position), and the third pole could be used for a city or corporate flag. The point is, the POW-MIA flag is never flown above a state flag, but may be flown equal to the U.S. flag, a state flag, and so on. If the location provides for many flagpoles and flags, then subsequent flags (after U.S. and state) are flown in order of congressional authorization (or incorporation), which is chronological.

I have come to this conclusion after detailed research and careful consultation with federal and military experts. It is a reasoned and thoughtful conclusion that adheres to the protocol and etiquette of all flags concerned, and in the absence of further legislation, I stand by it.

Continue reading Tomorrow is POW-MIA Recognition Day

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Protocol questions—Parades, the Pledge, and the National Anthem

That’s a lot of title, but all the elements are inextricably linked. Yesterday I didn’t post an article on The Daily Flag because I was doing research and answering questions. I am not a flag expert, but I am good at research, and I have patience, a highly useful skill in research. If you ask me a question, I will do my best to give you the right answer. The right answer—the protocol—is often found in precedence or tradition, and not the U.S. Flag Code, or it may come from military protocol.

A recurring question, a two–part question, is which comes first: the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. The U.S. Code, which is written for civilians, is silent on this. As a school girl, my classmates and I said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning: facing the U.S. flag, standing beside our desks, hands over hearts. This was in Texas, and there was a U.S. flag and a Texas flag in every classroom. (Some sets were small, some were large, and some were silky with gold fringe—but the flags were ubiquitous.)

We sang the Star-Spangled Banner when all the classes were assembled in the auditorium, gymnasium, et cetera. Sometimes we said the Pledge at the same time, but generally we did not, because we’d previously said the Pledge in our classrooms. That was a protocol decided by the school administration.

Which comes first?

Yesterday I spoke with a woman who was planning a large meeting. There was not going to be a color guard—the flags would be in place when the meeting started. She wanted to know which came first? The Pledge or the National Anthem, because a soloist was going to sing the Anthem. I suggested to her, based on previous experience and simplicity, to say the Pledge first. But there is no civilian protocol in the U.S. Code that says it must be done this way.

The Chair, to start the meeting, could ask for all to rise and say the Pledge, and all would sit down. After welcoming remarks and introduction of the soloist, then all could rise again while soloist sang the Anthem.

Would the presence of a color guard have changed the line-up? It seems to me that after the color guard posted the colors, the most natural thing in the world would be to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Last night I watched the All-Star game on television. Singer Sheryl Crow sang the National Anthem while accompanying herself with the guitar. I didn’t see the entire opening, but I’m pretty sure the Pledge of Allegiance was not said, because the National Anthem was traditional to the event, and it was sufficient.


Would you all rise …

Another frequent question concerns the color guard and saluting the flag. On this question, the U.S. Code is explicit: all stand, and all salute, in the manner appropriate to your circumstance. In a parade, most of the time everyone is already standing when the color guard passes by, so you salute and hold the salute, until the color guard has passed abreast of your spot. If you are seated in a formal reviewing stand, you stand (probably all simultaneously) then sit again.


riding club with colors What if the parade you are watching has more than one set of colors? Last Christmas Larry and I watched a parade and I lost count of the color guards that passed in review, because I think every "group" that participated in the parade was carrying the U.S. flag.

There was an official color guard to lead off the parade, then there were high school marching bands, riding clubs, Shriners, county mounted posse, other civic clubs (Lions, Rotary), the VFW, et cetera. Well, I saluted (hand on my heart) every time an obvious color guard passed in front of me.



Another question concerned music during the presentation of the colors: Is it appropriate to play music, even patriotic music, during the presentation of the colors? Here are the exact words from the Flag code:

Section 9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the
flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present except
those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the
right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the
military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress
with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being
over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The salute to the flag
in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

(Added Pub. L. 105-225, Sec. 2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1498.)

It does not address the inclusion of music, but I don’t think one can make an argument from silence and assume that it is ok. The presentation of the colors is a outstanding enough occasion that it does not need further adornment, or "gussied up." Surely we can bear a moment of silence while the flag goes by.

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An editorial I read yesterday left me seeing red, plus stars and stripes. It was another slam against wearing flag pins. This attitude distresses me, because wearing the flag as a pin is the only —sanctioned, let’s call it—method for ordinary civilians to wear the flag, as opposed to all the unsanctioned ways in which people wear the flag (but is only occasionally remarked upon).

I took two screen captures from the on-line editorial, because I like using gimmicks in order to illustrate my writing. The first image is from the title of the editorial.


Notice how the headline ends in “Trite Flag Pin.” That started it. The next bit of imagery comes from within the text of the article, where the writer calls it “empty symbolism.”


I don’t care if you don’t fly a flag at your house, or at your business. I don’t care if you don’t wear a flag pin over your heart. Honestly, I won’t give it a second thought. But don’t call my flag pin trite or empty symbolism. The US Code is plain about respect for the flag, and that respect extends to flag pins. It says:

CHAPTER 1–THE FLAG; Sec. 8. Respect for flag

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic
uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military
personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.
The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living
thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on
the left lapel near the heart.
(bold text mine-DH)

I have a vintage flag pin; it belonged to my mother. I wear it occasionally, but I’d rather keep it as a memento. I’ve been researching flag pins, because I would like to offer for sale a variety of good, better and best quality flag pins in the flag store. And that’s a search that is taking longer than in should, because thus far I am not finding any middle—better I should say—quality pins.

In the meantime however, I’ve made a decision. I want to be more up-front about my flag pin—I want it to be more visible. I don’t want anyone calling my flag pin “trite” or “empty symbolism.”

Here are four pins that I found. Two are new, and two are “vintage.” One is small, and three are big (one is about three inches long). One is easily affordable, two are more expensive, and one is nearly $2000. See if you can guess which one I won’t be getting any time soon.





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Congressional reference tool for flag protocol

At the Flags Bay store website and The Daily Flag, there are links to the U.S. Flag Code, which I hope are useful to our readers.

US Flag Flying 1Today I discovered The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions while searching for some particular information about flag protocol. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I found this, which is a stepping stone to what I need.

It was prepared by the Congressional Research Service for members of Congress. It addresses the flag code and the National Anthem, and combines the relevant portions of Title 4 and Title 36 from the U.S. Code into one detailed and cross-referenced document. It will be a worthy addition to your reference materials.

From the title page:

The United States Flag:
Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions


This report presents, verbatim, the United States “Flag Code” as found in Title
4 of the United States Code and the section of Title 36 which designates the Star-
Spangled Banner as the national anthem and how to display the flag during its
rendition. The “Flag Code” includes instruction and rules on such topics as the
pledge of allegiance, display and use of the flag by civilians, time and occasions for
display, position and manner of display, and how to show respect for the flag. The
“Code” also grants to the President the authority to modify the rules governing the

The report also addresses several of the frequently asked questions concerning
the flag. The subject matter of these questions includes the pledge of allegiance and
the court decisions concerning it, the nature of the codifications of customs
concerning the flag in the “Flag Code,” display of the flag 24 hours a day, flying the
flag in bad weather, flying the flag at half-staff, ornaments on the flag, destruction of
worn flags, display of the U.S. flag with flags of other nations or of States,
commercial use of the flag, size and proportion of the flag, and restrictions upon
display of the flag by real estate associations.

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The American Flag Ceiling?

USflagonceiling Section 8(f) of the U.S. Flag Code puzzles me.

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

Believing that most laws (and rules) have an originating  factor, my mind races to understand what must have transpired requiring this sentence’s inclusion in the Flag Code.

I can see it now—

Dateline Washington D.C., June 1942. Hot and muggy, Congress is in session hammering out one of the most important documents requiring their attention—the United States Flag Code.

The Distinguished Congressman from West Virginia, "I say gentlemen. We need to make sure no one uses the American flag for a bedspread in their private bedroom. This would demonstrate willful disrespect for Old Glory."

The Distinguished Congressman from Minnesota, "Well, unless its made out of wool, it wouldn’t be warm enough to use in my home state, but someone might use it to decorate the ceiling of their fishing shed."

West Virginia Congressman—"You don’t say … Hmmm, maybe we should include a ban on using the flag to cover a ceiling instead."

Congress in unison, "Hey, that’s a really, really good idea. We all make a motion to add a sentence to the Flag Code banning ceiling covering."

Congress in unison, "Second the motion."

" I have a motion and a second, all in favor? … Motion carried by majority. Now included in the United States Flag Code is a sentence banning any individual from covering their ceiling with an American flag."

Ok, maybe my rendition isn’t historically accurate*, but just think about it. What factors could have taken place that even brought this to their minds with enough force to ban the practice? I can’t imagine.

I also wanted to include a photograph with this editorial showing the U.S. Flag covering a ceiling, but this is the only example I could find, dated 1896—almost 50 years before it became a violation. At least this law against disrespect has worked.

*This is a dramatization. The U.S. Flag Code was a compilation from many different sources—State Flag Desecration Laws, Military Flag Codes, and more, compiled in 1923 by the National Flag Conference.

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The Stars at Night are Big and Bright … on the U.S. Flag

FlagStarfield Have you ever wondered about the stars on the U.S. flag? The stars have generated more speculation than any other part of the flag, with the exception of the person who crafted the first one.

The U.S. Flag Code addresses the stars in several places, giving us quite a bit of information. The word star or stars appears ten times in the Flag Code, but not after Section 3. Since the stars are a physical part of the American flag, the Code gives the details in that part of the code.

So what does the U.S. Flag Code tell us about our stars?

  1. The Flag Code called for 48 stars at the time, in 1942 (section 1)
  2. The stars are to be white on a blue Union (also referred to as a field of blue). (Section 1)
  3. There is one star to represent each state in the Union. (Section 1)
  4. The star positions [redesigned as necessary when a new star is added] are to become a part of the Flag Code as an attachment. (Section 1)
  5. A star’s diameter is defined as .0616 of the hoist. (Section 1)
  6. A star is added to the flag on the fourth of July following a new State’s admittance. (Section 2)
  7. No representation of the U.S. flag, including the stars, are to be used for advertising. (Section 3)

Who will the next star represent? Will another territory be granted statehood? Is fifty the magic number of states, with no more allowed? What’s up with Vermont?

What do you think?

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10 ways to solve a flag flying dilemma

US and TX flags 2 In the article Three flag dilemma: What’s the right way to fly?, I discussed one of the flag displays I saw recently. This article is about another display from the same day. Figure 2 represents the flags flying in front of an Austin, Texas business.

Deciding which flags to fly and in what order is a challenge that many business undertake everyday. Some flagpole configurations dictate how people can fly their flags, but the company in this example had the perfect setup.

The flagpoles are in a perfectly straight line and all are the same height. This is the configuration that will get you into the least amount of trouble, and yet …

As you probably see, one U.S. flag and the Texas flag are in great shape, it’s the second U.S. flag that brings up the problem. The U.S. Flag Code is clear about no flag flying to the right of the American flag, and in this illustration, the Texas flag is flying to the right of the second U.S. flag.

8(c) No other flag or pennant should be placed … to the right of the flag of the United States of America,

8(f) No such flag or pennant may be placed … to the United States flag’s right.

It is a problem that can be easily fixed in a couple of ways.

  1. Remove the 2nd U.S. flag.
  2. Remove the 2nd U.S. flag and hoist another flag (company, POW/MIA, alma mater, etc.).
  3. Swap the Texas and 2nd U.S. flag (this brings up other questions).
  4. Install new flagpoles in a configuration for two U.S. flags.
  5. Remove two of the flagpoles, leaving only one flagpole.
  6. Raise the height of the center pole by five feet and fly the U.S. flag on the tallest center flagpole.
  7. Lower the height of the two outside flagpoles, achieving the same results.
  8. Remove all flags from the flagpoles (I don’t like this option)
  9. Ignore the U.S. Flag Code and go for the symmetrical look.
  10. Hire me to monitor their flags to make sure they are flown correctly.
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Why is it so hard to fly the US flag right? Part IV

Flying the U.S. Flag right—made simple

ScoutSalute This series is intended for a company or individual that wants to fly the U.S. flag correctly—without offending anyone. The genesis of this idea was a conversation with a banker whose beautiful flagpole stood naked in front of the bank. She asked me the question, "Why is it so hard to flying the flag right?" I thought the question deserved a good answer.

In part three of Flying the flag right, I gave a brief overview of the ten sections of the U.S. Flag Code. In that article, it became apparent that we need only concern ourselves with Sections 6, 7, and 8 of the Flag Code to stay in good standing with the flag police.

Each of these sections focuses on a different aspect of flag flying behavior and the titles give a big hint into what each addresses. The section titles are:

Section 6: Time and occasions for display
Section 7: Position and manner of display
Section 8: Respect for flag

Let’s take a look at each of these and see what is pertinent to us in order to fly our flag daily or on named days.

Continue reading Why is it so hard to fly the US flag right? Part IV

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Respect: the Act of Consideration or Thoughtfulness

Respect: the act of consideration or thoughtfulness. Showing respect for the U.S. flag is nothing more than stopping to consider the relevance of this symbol of liberty. The derivation of the word respect literally means "look back at, regard, consider."

Section 8(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

To consider what the flag represents is easy because our history books are filled with entries of the heroic deeds of men and women standing in the way of tyranny. Standing up for what is right, sometimes in the face of terrible odds. » Blog Archive » “I was there… at Kooyong!”

WritingonUSflagAndy’s fans had a great 2007, traveling all over the world to see Andy play. Andy’s 2008 season kicked off at the Kooyong Classic, and that will also mark the first of our fan reports for 2008.Madi and Amy went to see Andy at Kooyong and shared their experience with“Kooyong began on Wednesday and we went, all kitted up in our American outfits (Ed’s note – every year, Madi and Amy go to Kooyong wearing dresses made out of the American flag). We’d decided this was the final year we were going to dress up in the outfits. (bold is mine)

Our freedom guarantees us the right to respect or disrespect—the choice is ours. Because of our freedom, we have the right to disrespect everything that represents this country and the liberties we have. Respect is merely the act of looking back at the price paid for the freedoms we have, giving us the right to show disrespect.  Respect should be easy, but it’s not.

Why is respect so hard? Let’s think about it.

  • Respect is hard because people don’t want to think about sacrifice.
  • Respect is hard because people don’t want to think about reverence.
  • Respect is hard because it requires reflection.
  • Respect is hard because it requires us to consider others, rather than ourselves.
  • Respect is hard because it requires reflections on the past and the price that was paid.
  • Respect is hard because it requires unselfishness.
  • Respect is hard because doing the right thing is never easy.
  • Why do you think respect is so hard a concept to grasp? Let me know in the comments. 


The accompanying photograph was taken in Australia and the girl is probably Australian, too. This in no way reflects on Andy Roddick or his respect for the American flag.
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Why is it so hard to fly the U.S. flag right? Part III

Back to the BasicsVillageLakes

This article is part of the "Flying the flag right" series and is an overview of the ten sections of the U.S. Flag Code. It is my attempt to demystify the Code and make it easier to understand. Much of the Flag Code isn’t for the average flag flyer, and isn’t something to fret about.

Some parts of the Code address executive office privileges, and standards for manufacturers, which doesn’t affect most of us.

(But do take the time to inspect any new flag before you fly it, and make sure is has the right number of stripes and that the stars are pointing up.)

Continue reading Why is it so hard to fly the U.S. flag right? Part III