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Flying the flag comes with specific rules.

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

Flags will fly at half-staff Saturday in recognition of Patriot Day, a national day to remember the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

Congress passed a joint resolution three months after the terrorist attacks, designating every Sept. 11 as Patriot Day, and President Bush typically signs a proclamation each year that includes a call for all U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff. Likewise, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has asked that all state flags flying at public and private institutions be flown at half-staff Saturday.

Accepted flag etiquette calls for a specific protocol for flying a flag at half-staff: The flag should be raised to the top of the pole, then lowered to half-staff; when taken down, the flag should first be raised to the top before being lowered.

For those flags that can't be lowered - such as smaller flags that people fly off their porches or the sides of their houses - there's an alternative way to remember the fallen, said Matthew Stockton, commander of American Legion Post No. 40 in Springfield.

That is to attach a black ribbon or streamer at the top of the flag, according to the American Legion.

Stockton and other veterans take flag etiquette seriously. One breach of etiquette Stockton said he notices frequently is when people fly a flag that's no longer fit to fly, either because it's tattered or faded.

"You're not being very patriotic by displaying those flags," he said. "That flag is more of a disgrace than an honor."

Better to go out and buy a new one, he said. And what to do with the old one? Bring it by an American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post, which will gladly take it for proper disposal.

"We have a guy that takes them out to his place and has a burn barrel specifically set aside" for flag burning, Stockton said.

Burning is the preferred method of disposal; flags should never be put in the trash, Stockton said.

Taking proper care of a flag isn't as simple or easy as one might think. The official U.S. Flag Code runs to eight pages, plus another six pages of frequently asked questions on flag display and use.

The code includes such instructions as: The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling. The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.

"The big thing to do is know what you're doing," Stockton said. "Don't just guess - ask."

Even the American Legion makes flag mistakes once in a while. After former President Ronald Reagan died last June, the Springfield post lowered the flag to half-staff for a few days, then raised it back up again. Not until a visitor pointed out that the nation was still officially in mourning for 30 days after a president's death did Stockton return the flag to half-staff.


For more flag information, visit:

National Flag Foundation Web site at

American Legion Web site at

Any American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post; many have free pamphlets on flag etiquette
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Title Annotation:General News; The American Legion has advice on how to raise the colors in remembrance of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 10, 2004
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