One of the ways Americans can pay their respects from a safe distance on Memorial Day is by flying the flag the way it is done at any other time of national mourning, at half-staff. It’s an important piece of symbolism. Until noon, the flag flies at half-staff as a memorial for the nation’s war dead; for the rest of the day, it flies full and high in a salute to living veterans.
But not everyone has a flagpole, of course. For flags that are mounted from the side of a home, window or balcony, a black crepe streamer can be affixed to the staff immediately below the flag’s spearhead — the golden ball, eagle, or spear-shaped ornament at the top of the staff. On a standard-size flag, the crepe should be no wider than one foot.
Observing proper etiquette is equally important at Memorial Day services at cemeteries and other venues. When the flag is hoisted:
- Spectators who aren’t in military uniform should face the flag, stand at attention and place their hands over their hearts.
- Those who are in uniform should give a proper military salute.
- A man who is not in uniform, but is wearing a hat, should remove it with his right hand and hold it at his left shoulder with his palm resting on his heart.
- Attendees who are not U.S. citizens should stand at attention.
- When the flag advances in a moving column, it is appropriate for all persons to salute it as it passes.