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(ARA) - Summer isn't just the season of baseball, barbecues, vacation and fresh produce. It's also flag season. Three of the country's most important patriotic holidays - Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day - arrive with summer, and across the nation proud Americans will show their patriotism by displaying the American Flag.
But will they do it properly?
"Fewer symbols inspire more patriotism and pride than the American Flag, and displaying it is a wonderful way to show respect not only for our country, but for all those in uniform who have defended it throughout our history," says Larry Singleton, decor manager for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, which displays an American Flag beside the fireplace in every restaurant. "Honoring our nation's Flag Code guidelines can make the display of the flag an even more poignant and patriotic gesture."
The federal law known as the "Flag Code" establishes a guide for handling and displaying Old Glory. If you'll be showing your American pride this year by displaying the flag or decorating with bunting, here's a thumbnail review of the code's guidelines so you can be confident in all you do:
* It's OK to display the flag 'round the clock, but you should illuminate it during nighttime hours. If you're not able to light the flag at night, the code recommends displaying only between sunrise and sunset.
* Hoist it briskly and lower it slowly and ceremoniously.
* Be sure to bring your flag in out of rain or snow - unless it's made of an all-weather material, in which case it's OK to leave it out in inclement weather.
* If you would like to display a flag on your car or truck, affix it to the chassis or clamp it to the right front fender.
* Many Americans are also proud of their ethnic origins and may choose to display the flag of their heritage along with the American Flag. That's fine; just be sure that the U.S. flag is displayed higher up, or if the flags are on the same level, the other flag should be placed to the left of the American Flag, never to the right.
* The blue and white stars field - known as "the union" - should always be up: at the top of the flag if it's on a staff or pole, uppermost and to the observer's left if the flag is being displayed horizontally or vertically against a wall. Displaying the flag with the union down is a signal of dire distress and reserved for instances of extreme danger to life or property.
* The flag should be kept from touching the ground, floor, water or anything beneath it.
* Flag-themed decor can add a welcome patriotic touch to your home, but it's best not to get carried away and use the American Flag as bedding or drapery.
* Bunting is an acceptable patriotic display; arrange it with the blue portion at the top, the white in the middle and the red at the bottom.
* When a flag becomes worn and is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way. One way to do that is to give the flag to a local VFW for proper disposal.
"Americans show their patriotism and American pride in a number of ways, from buying red, white and blue products to placing flags and flowers on the graves of veterans," Singleton says. "Displaying the American Flag in a respectful manner is one more way Americans can honor their country this summer and all year long."
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