Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

Few events stir the soul of Americans as much as honoring those who have died while serving our nation in the military.

Memorial Day on Monday recognizes those sacrifices. And if you display an American flag Monday in honor of the fallen, there are some aspects of the raising and lowering of the flag that are specific to Memorial Day you should keep in mind.

According to Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code, on Memorial Day:

-- The flag should first be raised to the peak of the staff for an instant;

-- It should then be lowered to half-staff;

-- At noon, the flag should be raised again to the peak of the staff and kept there until it is lowered and taken down at sunset;

-- The flag should only be flown after sunset if it is properly illuminated.


Memorial Day isn't the only day the U.S. flag is flown at half-staff. Others include:

-- By order of the president, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the U.S. government and the governor of a state, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory;

-- In the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law;

-- In the death of a present or former official of the government of any state, territory or U.S. possession, or the death of a member of the armed forces from any state, territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty, the governor of that state, territory, or possession may proclaim that the U.S. flag shall be flown at half-staff, and the same authority is provided to the mayor of the District of Columbia with respect to present or former officials of D.C. and members of the Armed Forces from D.C.

-- The flag shall be flown at half-staff 30 days from the death of the president or a former president; 10 days from the day of death of the vice president, the chief justice or a retired chief justice of the United States, or the speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment of an associate justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a member of Congress.

-- The flag shall be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day, unless that day is also Armed Forces Day.


-- It's customary to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

-- The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

-- The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.

-- The flag should be displayed on all days, but especially on New Year's Day (Jan. 1); Presidential Inauguration Day (Jan. 20); Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday (third Monday in January); President Abraham Lincoln's birthday (Feb. 12); President George Washington's birthday (third Monday in February); Easter Sunday; Mother's Day (second Sunday in May); Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May); Memorial Day (last Monday in May); Flag Day (June 14); Father's Day (third Sunday in June); Independence Day (July 4); Labor Day (first Monday in September); Constitution Day (Sept. 17); Columbus Day (second Monday in October); Navy Day (Oct. 27); Veterans Day (Nov. 11); Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November); Christmas Day (Dec. 25); days proclaimed by the president; birthdays of state you're in (Georgia's date of admission is Jan. 2), and state holidays.

-- The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.

-- The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.

-- The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.


Memorial Day is, of course, a reminder of military service members who died for our country. Caskets draped with the U.S. flag are reminders of how much these Americans sacrificed.

When the flag is used to cover a casket, it is placed so that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag is never lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.