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Flag etiquette: Parades

Small towns all across America are celebrating the Fourth of July with parades. Do you know the proper flag etiquette? It's been awhile since I've been in civics class, so it's always good to refresh my memory.

A color guard leads off the parade with the American flag and maybe other symbolic flags. The American flag should be centered in front of the others or carried to their right. During a parade there might be several participants with our flag, so it's appropriate to salute only the first one as it passes by. At that moment, everyone should show respect by standing at attention with their right hand over their hearts. Those in uniform give their appropriate formal salute.

Clark Rogers is the director of educational programs with the National Flag Foundation and says if you're carrying the flag, it should be out in front of you.

"The flag is carried essentially straight up and down or at roughly a 30-degree angle going up," Rogers says. "The thing about carrying a flag is it's always carried upright, never dipped under any conditions whatsoever."

Dipping the flag is a sign of disrespect. If it's displayed on a vehicle, it should not be draped over the hood, top or sides.

"It's on the right front fender of the vehicle so it's always to its own right -- that's the law," Rogers says. "If it's on a window or the rear of the car, it would be on the opposite side, on the left of the car."

Flags on floats

One of my favorite parts of every parade are the various floats. But, floats have different rules of flag display.

"An American flag should never be on a float unless it's on a pole so that it can fly freely," Rogers says. "It's a sign of freedom. The flag code says the flag should never be draped over anything."

You might be surprised at how many flag rules there are. It's all based on respect and dignity for Old Glory.

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