by Kristi Ries
People buy new American flags for various reasons: to honor a loved one, to show patriotism, in observance of a national holiday or to replace an older flag that has grown worn by years of use. Yet many Americans may not be aware of existing “flag protocol” – that is, how to properly dispose of a flag.
Because of its inherent symbolism, the U.S. flag carries special meaning and should be treated accordingly. Flags should never be defaced or be allowed to become tattered, faded or dirty. Once this occurs, the time has come to retire the flag in a respectful manner. The U.S. Flag Code states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning”.
Many organizations, such as veterans associations, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, and other patriotic organizations are equipped to perform flag retirement ceremonies. Turning over your discarded flag to one of these groups ensures a fitting final tribute to your symbol of patriotism.
A few tips on flag selection and maintenance:
Many consumers seek out all-weather flags that are specifically created to withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight, wind and rain. This is recommended for those who wish to fly the flag outdoors, as in some areas pollution as well as inclement weather conditions will affect the fabric. If you live in an area of extreme weather (high winds) or plan to fly the flag daily, pay attention to the material used to construct the flag. These flags will often be more expensive than those created for indoor purposes or more infrequent display outside.
To help make your flag last longer in good condition, consider rotating flags every six months. This will cut down on any exposure to the elements and will guarantee that you always have a replacement flag on hand if one should become too damaged to display.