There are plenty of misconceptions about the proper display of the United States Flag, which end up in debate at last moment at some event, such as when forming up for a Memorial Day parade. Ignorance abounds despite our unusual, common man love to display it (remarkable among the nations of the world). Even “military experts” get it wrong from time to time.
Fortunately, Americans are a common sense people and know the intended respect for the flag — actually what it represents — is more important than some fiddling detail. Some proper guidance (not law), nevertheless, is useful because it is in the attending to the details we most ostensibly demonstrate our intentions. Click here for one of the better products on U.S. flag etiquette, the real skinny. However, this Congressional Research Service product does not answer all the questions which arise. We have found the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia has created a useful USHistory.org website subsection which provides additional guidance on flag etiquette, to include information on the order of precedence when displaying the national, state, military, POW/MIA and other flags. Its “Flag Rules” tab top right of the page provides a laundry list of useful web pages for advice.
Note the order of precedence for military flags is established by a Department of Defense Directive. While the directive is an internal document, it is traditional and appropriate to follow the directive in civilian displays. For those whose questions on flag order of precedence remain unanswered and or want to to see a more detailed flag order precedence all in one place — to include how the VA displays the order of chartered veterans organization flags — try the Military Salute Project website.
Remember, mistakes do not result in imprisonment or most of us would have been incarcerated by now.
Last Updated: 13 May 2023 (replaced National Flag Foundation site)