Flag Etiquette: How to Properly Retire an American Flag

January 15, 2019 2 min read

There are few sights as beautiful as the Stars and Stripes flying freely in the blue sky. The sight of it can bring instant awe and invoke feelings of patriotism. But there may come a time when the U.S. flag won’t be in the excellent condition it once was. With time, a flag will gradually tatter and fray and it’ll

There are few sights as beautiful as the Stars and Stripes flying freely in the blue sky. The sight of it can bring instant awe and invoke feelings of patriotism. But there may come a time when the U.S. flag won’t be in the excellent condition it once was. With time, a flag will gradually tatter and fray and it’ll be time to respectfully retire it from its service.

When a flag is worn out beyond means, it should be disposed off in a reverent and dignified manner. You should never just throw the tattered flag in the bin and be done with it, that’s a huge disrespect. But there are several ways to retire a flag the right way.

Flag Burning Ceremony 

Burning a flag is not as sacrilegious as one may think it to be. It’s actually a very popular way of respectfully retiring a worn out flag. To do so, the flag must be lowered down the flagpole with care. It should never touch the ground or fall ungracefully from the top. Once lowered, it should be folded in the customary triangle fold with the stars facing up.

Once that’s done, a fire should be lit that’s be big enough to engulf the flag and burn it properly. If it’s a formal flag burning ceremony, the burning flag should be saluted and the Pledge of Allegiance should be stated as a symbolic gesture of patriotism.

But this type of flag disposal may not be all that environmentally friendly. Since flag fabric is treated with chemicals, it’ll give off fumes while burning which can be toxic for the environment. This is why there are other more eco-friendly and respectful methods as well. 

Burying the Flag 

Burying the flag is also a respectful way of retiring the flag. The flag should be folded correctly and placed in a good quality wooden box. It should be then interred into the ground in a small ‘flag funeral’ ceremony.

Shredding the Flag 

Cutting up a flag may seem violent but it’s actually considered an acceptable method for disposing of a worn out flag, but it should be done in a reverent manner. After the flag is shredded, it can be respectfully buried or burned ceremoniously.

VFWs and American Legion Posts 

VFW and Legion Posts will often accept flags in a variety of conditions. If the flag is still usable, they may donate it or use it in various ceremonies. If it is no longer usable, they will dispose of the flag properly.

Need a new flag to take the place of the one you’ve retired? Buy high-quality American flags from us! We at Federal Flags offer a wide range for you to check out! From custom-printed flags to retractable banners, we have it all!

Contact us now for more details.


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