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Displaying Old Glory

As a Minnesota National Guard soldier, I have a deep love of our nation and a sincere appreciation for the symbols that represent it. The American Flag is a symbol recognizable by probably anyone in the world. It signifies who we are as a people. I appreciate anyone who properly displays our flag.

I learned a great deal about the proper display of the American Flag and other flags during my deployment to Iraq. While there, I was responsible for the proper display of flags, which represented not only our country but other countries and our command. When in a foreign country and displaying that nation’s flag, it is insulting to the people of that nation to improperly display their flag. The same needs to be said for displaying flags anywhere.

There are several sources of knowledge available for those whom display flags. One of the first places a person should check is the U.S. Flag Code. This code is the guide for all handling and display of the Stars and Stripes.

 The code does not carry any penalties for improper display or use of the flag. Those are left to the respective states and territories.

As a soldier, there are several Army Regulations that cover the proper use and display of flags.

I have driven through many towns and cities throughout the great state of Minnesota and have seen many people proudly displaying Old Glory. Sadly though, I have also seen many people not properly displaying the symbol of our nation or the symbols of other nations, states or organizations when flying them with Old Glory. I would never begin to imagine that anyone would purposely do this, but instead would conclude that they are unsure or unaware of how to properly display the American flag. I know from doing my own research that the flag code is not always cut and dry on certain matters.

There are a few tricks that I have picked up on over my time as the “Flag Guy” as I became well known as during my deployment.

These may be helpful to anyone wishing to display flags.

One trick that has not failed me is this — always treat the flag as a person. If you are displaying a flag on a stage, placing the flag in front of a building or making it part of a ceremony.

Think of it as a person observing the action. Then place it to its own right.  If there are other flags such as the State of Minnesota flag, Old Glory goes to its own right.

Another trick I have learned is that size matters.  When displaying flags of countries, states and organizations, think largest to smallest.  A country is bigger than a state typically, and a state is bigger than an organization. It is important to remember this rule when displaying for example the U.S., Canadian and Minnesota flag together, as is often done in Minnesota.  The U.S. flag goes to its own right, unless it is recognizably higher, followed by Canada to the left and Minnesota to the left of Canada.  Not raising the flags all the way to the top of the pole is not a way to make the U.S. flag recognizably higher, it’s only a sign of disrespect to the flags being flown on those poles.

Also when displaying the flags of other countries, the flags need to be at the same level on separate poles and be of approximately equal size. The flags of other nations should be displayed in alphabetical order and the flags of states go by the date they were inducted into the union.

This may all seem a bit trivial or needless but for those who have fought for or made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation they love, it is not.

Paying honor to those they love and showing honor to the symbol of the nation they love is no small thing.

When you display the flag, do so with honor and dignity. A little research on a question you may have about whether or not you are displaying it properly can go a long way to warming the heart of a soldier, like myself, and any veteran.

 1st Lt. Kenneth R. Toole is the Camp Ripley public affairs officer.