Carrying the Flag

Carrying the Flag

Carrying an American Flag is a great way to pay tribute to flag and to the United States, but carrying it improperly can be disrespectful. The Flag Code specifies the rules and regulations of handling and displaying the flag in an appropriate manner.

Proper Procedure, Flag Etiquette, Codes and Rules for Carrying the American Flag

  • Unless the flag is folded, it should be carried on a handheld staff, so it can fly freely. It should never be carried flat, horizontally or vertically.
  • The only time a flag can be carried flat is when it is draped over a casket at a funeral.
  • You can tilt the staff forward, allowing the flag to fly in front of you or you can rest the staff on your right shoulder allowing the flag to fly behind you.
  • If you tilt the staff forward, you should hold the base of the staff in your left hand at your waist. Place your right hand about two feet up the staff. You can also purchase a flag holder which ties around the waist and holds the base of the staff.
  • Do not hold the flag at an angle where it falls over the staff.
  • Never allow the flag to touch the ground or any object below it.

  • How to Carry a U.S Flag in a Parade:

  • In a parade or procession with other flags, the American Flag should be located to the flag's own right. In a line of flags, the American Flag should be in the front and center of the other flags. These are both positions of prominence.
  • As the flag passes in a parade, you should face the flag and place your right hand over your heart. Men and women in uniform should perform a military salute to the flag.
  • The flag shouldn't be draped over a vehicle or float.
  • It can be secured to a float or slow-moving vehicle on a staff. The flag must be far enough away that it can fly freely.

  • Other Flag Q&A:

    Why can't the American Flag touch the ground?

    According to flag code it is important to treat the American Flag with respect and care. The flag should not touch the ground because it is disrespectful to the flag. The flag should always be carried and displayed in a dignified way as it is a symbol for the United States of America.

    Is it legal to wear the American Flag?

    It is legal in the United States to wear the American Flag, however according to flag code it does violate the rules. It is disrespectful to the flag to be worn or to be used as decoration. For decorative purpose its best to use bunting or other patriotic décor.

    How to dispose of an old American Flag?

    According to the Flag Code, any American flag that is worn, damaged or tattered beyond repair should be retired in a respectful manner. The preferred method for disposing a flag in such condition is burning it. This may shock some, since it is a well known fact that burning the flag is illegal. You can burn the flag yourself, making sure it is done in a discreet and professional manner, or many organizations like the American Legion, the Boy Scouts Council and the Girl Scouts Council will perform a flag retirement ceremony and burn your flag for you. In this case, burning signifies purification and rebirth.

    Although burning is the preferred method, it is also acceptable to seal your old flag in a box or bag and bury it. It is important to note that your community may also have a flag disposal box or location that you can recycle your tattered flag. The most important factor is showing respect to the flag during its disposal.

    Find more information on flag disposal.

    Find information on how to properly care for your flag.

    How to display a folded American Flag?

    The American Flag may be folded for a number of reasons. Since the Flag Code specifies that the flag should not be carried flat, folding the flag may be necessary for transportation, storage or display. The flag is also folded by members of the Armed Forces after it is lifted from a casket at a military funeral, it is then given to the family.

    The Flag Code does not specify a proper method on how the flag should be folded, but a standard flag will require thirteen folds. To specify there should be two lengthwise folds and eleven triangular folds.


    U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7, Section 8, & Section 9.

    The Care and Display of the American Flag by the Editors of 2004.

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