In Westchester, the Stars and Stripes abound on residential stoops and storefronts—even more frequently, it seems, in recent days. According to Ed Cook, a Vietnam-era vet and clinical social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs in White Plains, “More flags are flying because when our nation faces tragedy, like the Boston Marathon bombing, we want the world to know we are united. That’s why we honor the flag and must respect it by displaying it properly.”
The first step in flying Old Glory properly is making sure you avoid the most common presentation blunders, says Jimmy Eich, owner of Eich of Bedford Flag, a flag-installation business that opened in Bedford in the 1940s and later relocated to New Rochelle.
“The most common mistake I see is people flying another country’s flag below the American flag,” says Eich, whose business has installed flags for big-name clients such as the Yankees, the Westchester County Center, Colgate University, and Fordham University. “It’s a sign of disrespect to the other nation,” he explains.
Another big mistake is positioning any flag to the right of the American flag. Unless it’s an international venue like the United Nations, Eich advises that the US flag must be placed in the extreme right position.
Brook Hanna, vice regent of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in White Plains, sheds light on another major faux pas. “The flag should not be flown at night unless it is illuminated during the hours of darkness,” Hanna says.
Also, “it should not be flown on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.” All-weather flags are usually made of nylon or other durable fabrics.
What about raising the flag? “People often don’t know that the flag should be raised briskly, but lowered ceremoniously,” Hanna says. And, “when a flag is flown at half-staff, it should be raised to the peak then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be raised again to the peak before it is lowered for the day.”
Finally, Hanna says, it’s important to know when to retire your flag. “If a flag is torn, soiled, or damaged in any way, the flag should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.”
If you’re still unsure about how and when to fly your flag, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution offers a leaflet entitled “Flags and Flag Code” with all the dos and don’ts. Based on the United States Flag Code (a federal law passed by Congress in 1942), the guide is free to the public at the DAR office in White Plains.
“We typically hand them out with a small American flag to newly naturalized citizens at Westchester County Naturalization Court,” says Hanna.
Since the earliest days of our national heritage, the American flag has been, Cook says, a banner under which we’ve fought for our shared cause of freedom. Get in touch with the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Protocol at va.gov for even more flag expertise, and check halfstaff.org for notifications on presidential orders to lower your red, white, and blue.