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Stars and stripes

Waving pride

Make sure US flags a ‘fitting emblem’ with mending, lighting

– Whether it’s with an illuminated steel post standing proudly in the front yard or a bracket on a porch, you could be one of many people who display the American flag year-round. Then again, you may be one who flies it on special occasions and holidays. Or maybe you’ve thought about getting a flag but haven’t gotten around to it, and you’ve assured yourself you will before summer is over.

According to the calendar, we’re in the middle of the flag-waving months, with Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, Flag Day coming up Saturday and the Fourth of July not far away.

Of course, citizens don’t need a special day or time of year to display the Stars and Stripes at our residences. It’s just that there seem to be more visible signs of patriotism during these times.

But where do you get an American flag? And when you get one, how do you display it and maintain it properly? And then what to do with it after it becomes torn and threadbare?

Mike Buss, deputy director at the American Legion headquarters in Indianapolis, is among the nation’s authorities on flag etiquette.

“One of the most frequent things we encounter is people are very patriotic,” Buss says. “They’ll fly their flag, but eventually those flags get tattered and torn and they just don’t realize it. What I tell people is take a pause every now and then. Look up at your flag. Make sure it’s still a fitting emblem for display. If it’s not, replace it.

“What I like to say is vibrant red is now pastel pink.”

Buss said if the flag is torn, it may be mended. Even if there is fraying at the end, the frayed part may be trimmed and hemmed. “One problem is if you keep hemming it, eventually the proportions will not be correct,” Buss says.

Another commonly asked question is the nightly illumination of the flag – what is and isn’t accepted.

“The answer is: As long as there is proper illumination,” Buss says. “We’re pretty easy when it comes to proper illumination – either a single source of light such as a spotlight or whatever. But people don’t have that kind of money to put in a fancy lighting system. If it’s hanging on the house and you’ve a street light or a porch light turned on and you look up and see the flag flying, that’s good enough for us.

“About 10, 11 years ago, a lady asked me about the moon. I said, ‘I guess so,’ but I threw it back at her and said, ‘What if there is no moon then?’ And she said, ‘I’ll take my flag down, then.’ ”

Here are a few other flag tips from Buss:

Disposal: Do not throw it out with the trash. The preferred way to dispose of the flag is to burn it. “Some (people) aren’t comfortable with that,” Buss says. “They can always take it to a local legion post. Flag Day is coming up, and we’ll have a disposal ceremony.”

W hat if there is no flag post or staff?: If a flag is to be hung without it being on a post, the union portion of the flag – the stars – is to be positioned to the left.

What is the proper ceremony to fly a flag at half-staff?: If displayed on a post, the flag must be raised to the top, then returned to half-staff. If it is on a staff that juts from a residence or post, adjust the flag down the staff, if possible.

Where can a flag be purchased?: Buss says many retail stores sell U.S. flags. “If you want a flag made in America, we sell them at all American Legion posts.”

stwarden@jg.net

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