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Flags fly for all to see, but flag etiquette often goes unobserved
Memorial Day, established as a national holiday to honor the nation's war dead, was conceived in the wake of one of the country's bloodiest and most bitter conflicts.
Coast guardsman Jose Adams raises the colors at Station Menemsha. Photo by Sara Piazza
Many towns, businesses, and organizations that display the flag use the approach of Memorial Day as an opportunity to replace flags worn and battered by the elements. An informal visual survey conducted by The Times on April 28 found that of approximately 30 flags flown on public or commercial properties, not all are in good condition or properly displayed.
In Vineyard Haven, for example, the flags flying in front of the police department and fire department were in good condition. Town officials said the flags are well maintained and flown daily.
Flag display - the traditional protocol
The use and display of the United States flag is quite specific. Several web sites provide information on where, when and how to fly the flag, when and how to put the flag up and take it down, and what to do with the flag when it is in poor condition.
The U.S. Flag Code, adopted in 1923 and amended by Public Law 94-344 in 1976, states "It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset ... However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness."
Because the flags at these three locations cannot be illuminated at night, as protocol requires, the flags are lowered every evening, said Fred Lapiana, public works director.
The Vineyard Haven Post Office flies a flag that appeared to be in good condition, but a closer inspection revealed jagged edges. That flag remained up throughout the night without illumination, as did the Police Office's flag, as required by proper flag etiquette.
The flag flown at the Dukes County Jail and House of Correction on Upper Main Street in Edgartown was also left flying at night un-illuminated.