Proper Flag Etiquette

What does the US flag stand for?

          The Flag of the United States of America is a symbol of freedom and liberty to which Americans pledge their allegiance. It is much more than just a piece of cloth.

          The RED stripes on the flag represent valor and bravery, and the lives lost in defense of this nation and its values. The WHITE stripes symbolize purity and innocence. The BLUE field represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

          The 13 alternating stripes stand for the original British colonies, which became the first 13 states. The 50 white stars on the blue field represent the 50 United States.

Retiring the Flag

          Title 36 Section 176 of the United States Code states “No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.” Furthermore, Paragraph (K) of this same Title 36, Section 176 states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”


          The Boy Scouts of America publication “Our Flag” states, “When the national flag is worn beyond repair, burn it thoroughly and completely on a modest, but blazing fire. This should be done in a simple manner with dignity and respect. Be sure the flag is reduced to ashes, unrecognizable as a former flag.”

Flags, like everything else, wear out over time. Eventually, a flag will get to the point of being too worn out to be able to be flown (ie: grommets missing, stripes torn, etc). When this happens, the flag needs to be retired. You can’t throw a flag away, as it is disrespectful to the flag. You can’t recycle it either. The most common way to retire a flag is by burning it, in a dignified, respectful manner.

Why we retire flags

Do you have an American flag that needs to be retired?

Not to worry! As part of his Eagle Scout Project, Will B. has placed his "Flag Depositories" at convenient locations around Saco and Old Orchard Beach. Just look for a colorful red, white, and blue box at any of these locations:

By bringing your flag to one of these locations, you can be sure that it will be retired respectfully and patriotically.