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Proper Care of the Flag

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Few organizations and communities can match the depth of national pride seen on Hickam Air Force Base. This is especially true concerning display of the Stars and Stripes; and I'm not only referring to the base and numerous ceremonial flags, which dot the base's landscape, but also numerous smaller flags adorning the homes of the men and women who have sworn to protect and defend the ideals for which it stands. This tribute, while serving as a reminder of the promise of our great nation, as well as our own personal sacrifice, must be properly maintained so as not to diminish its intended patriotic effect.

Section 8j of the U.S. Flag Code states, "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing." As such, it requires care just as all "living things" do. So, here are a few tips that, if used regularly, will extend the life and appearance of your flag.

But before delving into flag care tips, I'd be remise if I didn't mention that proper display is paramount. Refer to the U.S. Flag Code at http://www.usflag.org/uscode36.html for a complete list of display customs and protocol. Now, back to the flag care list:

- Use a flag marked "outdoor" for outdoor displays. Not all flags are created equal; ensure you display your flag as recommended by the manufacturer.

- Choose the right size. Flags which fly from angled poles on homes are typically either three feet by five feet or four feet by six feet. Larger flags have specified flagpole height requirements. Keep in mind, the flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor or water.

- Clean your flag. Outdoor flags may be hand-washed with a mild detergent, while indoor flags generally require dry-cleaning. Again, follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

- Take down your flag on high-wind days. High winds are extremely tough on flags and repeated exposure will eventually result in fly ends.

- Trim fly ends at the first sign of fraying. Flags may be trimmed as long as the overall dimensions are not noticeably altered.

- Don't forget the flagpole. Remove rust and scale, which can cause permanent stains and destroy the fabric.

The average life expectancy of an outdoor flag is three to six months. After six months, even with proper care, noticeable fading will have likely occurred. This is especially true here in Hawaii. When your flag is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner. Many Veteran and civic organizations will properly dispose of your flag at no cost to you.

Remember, proper care of your flag will not only extend its life but also enhance the intended patriotic effect. Long may it wave...with proper care that is!

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