It's a familiar setting as night is settling in. A light breeze brushes past the porch, ruffling the American flag hung outside on the flagpole in the gathering darkness. But something about this scene is wrong.
"At nighttime, a flag must be illuminated to be flown," said Tom Taylor, service officer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8452 in Gainesville. "The only place a flag is flown properly without illumination is on the moon."
Taylor, an Army veteran, said this is one of many routinely violated rules of basic flag etiquette that people make when displaying their flags outside.
The rules and traditions regarding the proper display of the ubiquitous stars and stripes are to "show respect for the country, because the American flag is a symbol of the United States," Taylor said.
Taylor said other common mistakes include displaying a torn flag and letting the flag touch the ground. In either case, it must be taken down and destroyed respectfully and its ashes ceremoniously buried.
The stars and stripes will always stand out if displayed correctly. For instance, the American flag should always be the highest flag flown, whether or not it is on the same pole of another flag, as outlined in the U.S. Code.
Honoring the flag began centuries ago when the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the flag of the United States of America on June 14, 1777.
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 "Flag Day" in 1916, but it was not until 1949 that an Act of Congress was signed by President Harry S. Truman, officially declaring it a national holiday.
The resolution requested that the president issue an annual proclamation calling for a national observance and for the display of the American flag on federal government buildings.
Foy Todd, field director with Northeast Georgia Council of Boy Scouts of America, said teaching flag etiquette is part of being an American citizen.
Todd said Boy Scouts start learning in the second grade the correct way to fold a flag, using a towel for practice. A correctly folded flag is in the shape of a triangle with only the blue showing, according to U.S. Code.
"Hopefully we're doing more than teaching a skill, we're teaching them to respect our rights and obligations as a citizen. The flag is a symbol of that and the nation," Todd said.