By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
I’m grateful to be an American. I’m also proud that our nation’s history is part of my own. It’s an honor that the brave men and women who are currently serving or have served in the Armed Forces are among my ancestors, relatives, friends, neighbors, and co-citizens. And I’m delighted for the ways in which our diverse nation has come together to agree upon (the manners of) how best to honor the symbols of our country.
The U.S. Flag, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem all have certain protocols (unchanging rules of use) that as citizens we need to know and follow and pass along to our children. By showing shared respect to them, we make “…our past one with the present and the present a foundation for the future.” (USFlag.org)
Here are the top ways of showing pride in and honoring these three symbols of our nation.
U.S. Flag, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem Etiquette
National Anthem Etiquette
1. As soon as you hear an announcement that the National Anthem is about to be played or sung, stand up in anticipation. If you have a hat on, remove it. This etiquette applies to both men and women IF the woman is wearing a unisex or sports hat (ball cap) and not a ladies-only beautiful hat (like you see worn at the Kentucky Derby).
2. For those who have never served in the military: On the first note of the anthem, place your right hand over your heart. (You may hold your hat in your right hand and place it over your heart as well.) Keep your hand in place until after the last note. Keeping your hand over your heart applies whether the anthem is sung or an instrumental-only version.
3. Current members of the military should give and hold a military salute during the anthem.
4. If there is a flag, look at it throughout the anthem. If there is no flag, then watch the singer(s). If it’s an instrumental version, watch the band or musician(s). If it’s a recorded instrumental version, look straight ahead.
5. Remove your sunglasses. Yes, it’s uncomfortable in the bright sun. That’s OK. People on the battlefield have been much more uncomfortable.
6. Don’t talk during the anthem. If you’re talking, you’re not paying attention to the song and thus not showing respect for its meaning.
7. Don’t eat or drink during the song. If you’re chewing gum, stop until the anthem has ended. Have nothing in your hands.
8. You may sing along if you wish. In fact, since it’s our nation’s sing, we should sing along. Just don’t try belting it out like you’re the one who was invited to perform it.
9. After the song is completed, it’s NOT proper to applaud. I know this sounds odd, and I know that everyone else at a sporting or large event is doing it, but it goes against the official Code. The song represents our National Anthem (or hymn) and the person singing is leading the audience in the singing of the song, they’re not performing it for their own recognition. (I know it’s hard sometimes, remember when Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem in 1991 at Super Bowl XXV?!) However, at sporting events, the game usually begins immediately after the playing of the anthem so it could be said that people are clapping for the starting of the event and not the end of the anthem. At the Super Bowl, the fly over immediately follows the anthem, and it’s fine to clap for the fly over. Again, keep in mind that it is NOT considered correct to clap at the end of the anthem.
10. In a case where the anthem of another nation is playing on U.S. soil, or you’re visiting another country: stand up, remove your hat, and remain quiet in respect for their anthem. Do not place your hand over your heart or salute a foreign anthem, allegiance, or flag.
Pledge of Allegiance Etiquette
1. When pledging allegiance to the flag, follow the manners of participating in the National Anthem listed above.
2. Say the anthem out loud with the rest of those gathered.
3. Look at the flag as the Pledge is said, and don’t forget to put your right hand over your heart.
U.S Flag Etiquette
1. Any time you’re at an event (a parade, football game half-time show, Boy or Girl Scout ceremony, church or school event, or such) and the flag passes you, stand up as you see it come into your line of vision. Follow all the protocols of listening to The National Anthem listed above. And remain standing until the flag has passed you and your family or group.
2. The flag does not belong to any one American. It’s a shared symbol of our nation. It should only be at half mast by presidential or gubernatorial order even when mourning a soldier killed in the line of duty.
A person may not correctly decide to fly our national symbol at half mast for personal reasons.
I know this is hard from my experience. I wanted to honor my brother, a 25-plus-year member of the Armed Forces when he passed away. He didn’t die in the line of duty; however, the beauty and dignity of his military funeral, including the three volley, often called a “21 Gun Salute,” along with the presenting of the flag that covered his coffin to his widow, were a beautiful reflection of his service to our nation.
3. Any time you see the flag being raised or lowered, stop to watch, remain silent, remove your hat, and place your right hand over your heart.
4. Light must always shine on our flag. It may never fly in darkness. If you have one flying outside your home, either lower it and bring it inside before sunset each evening or have a light installed to shine on it throughout the night.
5. The flag isn’t dipped (lowered) to any person or thing.
6. On United States soil, our flag always should be given the place of honor among other flags. It should be put on a stage in a room to its right-hand side. No other flag may be larger in size, be on a taller flag pole, or raised higher. The U.S. flag will be the first one raised and the last one lowered. (The flag is to be raised briskly and lowered slowly.)
7. When displayed on a wall, the flag may be hung either vertically or horizontally. In either case, the stars should be at the top and to the observer’s left.
8. All flags displayed for general public use (those not of historical significance) should be clean and tatter-free. When it’s time to retire a flag, there are precise protocols. American Legion Posts and Boy Scout Troops hold occasional ceremonies in which the flag is correctly burned (retired). Contact your local chapter for details on when their next service is. One will often occur on Flag Day, June 14.
This list of flag etiquette is by no means an exhaustive one. To learn more, visit USFlag.org.
Hug a Current Military Member or a Vet
The National Anthem, The Pledge of Allegiance, and Old Glory herself, The United States flag — they’re OUR symbols.
Our symbols of pride. Our symbols of a shared past full of brave men and woman who made (and are still making) untold sacrifices for our freedom. These are our symbols of a shared past. Our symbols of being willing to stand side-by-side today. And an unspoken promise that we will be here for each other tomorrow no matter what.
Honor the symbols of our American pride and most importantly the men and women of our Armed Forces, past and present, who keep this the “land of the free” and make true the statement that we’re the “home of the brave!”
Thank you to everyone who has served or is now serving. What would we do without you? Thank you for your honor, bravery, and sacrifices. You are superheroes! May you be blessed ten times over for giving of yourselves!
God bless us all, and God bless the USA!
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Until next time, keep doing what only you can do. Bless the world by being you at your authentic best!