More than a decade ago, I became an announcer for the Madera Old Timers Day Parade. As one of our local veterans groups (the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars alternate each year) presented the colors, I was astounded that most people in Courthouse Park just sat on the ground with their hats on.
The following year, I used my public address system to inform people that they should stand and that men should remove head coverings as the colors passed before them. The previous year, I assumed that was a “given.” But, when I was a teenager, I was enrolled in a ROTC (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) program at Xavier Military Academy in New York City, where I learned the rules that pertain to the U.S. flag. I assumed that everyone understood flag protocol. I was wrong. The flag is a historic symbol of the United States and, as such, it has a number of rules (not spelled out in the Constitution) that should be followed by Americans.
The rules regarding the flag can be found in a document that is known as “Flag Etiquette.” Because tomorrow is National Flag Day, I thought that this would be a good time to review these protocols with my readers. For example, did you know that the U.S. flag should always be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously? I think that this tradition goes back to the days of the Revolutionary War when fighting started at the beginning of the day and ended as dusk descended. The “brisk” ascent probably signaled a hope that the war would go well for the colonies, and the slow and dignified descent was likely meant to consecrate the soldiers who died during the battle.
According to “Flag Etiquette,” the flag should be displayed only on days when it will not be damaged by wind and rain. It should be hoisted during the morning hours and lowered at dusk, unless it is lighted. As the flag is raised, or when it passes by in a parade, all persons — except those in uniform who have a different set of rules to follow — should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. This rule also applies when people join in repeating the “Pledge of Allegiance.” ...