Proper Display of American Flag With a POW Flag & State Flag

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America’s flag has been a poignant symbol of the United States since it was adopted by the Continental Congress in June 1777. Another flag, the Prisoner of War/Missing In Action (POW/MIA) flag, was officially recognized by Congress in 1990 and reminds our POWs that they “Are Not Forgotten.” It is important to properly display these powerful symbols in order to show respect to the nation and the people who protect us.

1 Displaying the American Flag

To properly display the American flag, the POW/MIA flag, and a state flag together, certain precautions must be taken. First and foremost, the American flag must always have precedence. The flag should always be to its own right (or the viewer's left) of other flags or in front of them, and never behind, below, or to its own left (the viewer's right) of any other flags (except at church services given by naval chaplains at sea). The flag should also be illuminated if it is to be hung for 24 hours a day, otherwise, it should be run up the staff at sunrise, and lowered ceremoniously at sunset. The American flag should also be displayed in, on, or near every public institution, every polling place during elections, and every schoolhouse in America. When hanging the American flag indoors, or displaying it from a window, the Union (blue star field) should always be to the viewer’s left. If placed over a street, the Union should be on the north side of the flag (if the street runs east and west) or the east side (if the street runs north and south). Similarly, if the flag is draped in a building (hung straight down from its edge), the union should be to the north or east (depending upon the building location).

2 Placing the POW/MIA Flag

The POW/MIA flag is always second in prominence to the American flag. It, too, should be placed under, or to the left (observer's right) of the U.S. flag, and to the right (observer's left) of any other flags on display. The POW/MIA flag should be shown on the following days: 1. Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday in May. 2. Memorial Day, the last Monday in May. 3. Flag Day, June 14. 4. Independence Day, July 4. 5. National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday of September. 6. Veterans Day, November 11.
The POW/MIA flag is required to be flown at the Capitol Building, the White House, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, each national cemetery, the buildings of the Secretaries of State, Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Selective Service Director; each major military base, any Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, and any United States Postal Service post office. Hung indoors, it must be the second farthest flag placed to the viewer’s left, with the flag’s silhouetted soldier upright and facing away from the staff.

3 State and Territory Flags

State flags should be placed after the American and POW/MIA flag in the order the states were admitted to the Union, or in alphabetical order. Territorial flags should be placed after the state flags using the same methods of order as the state flags.

Ben Webb is a graduate student who also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in American literature from University of California at Santa Cruz. He learned to love writing at UCSC's Fishwrap Live! school paper, and has detailed his extensive travels for the Florida Times-Union. Webb currently resides in Orlando, Florida but dreams of returning to the High Sierra.