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Did you know that you can buy a brand-new American flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol for as little as $13 or $14?

You can, thanks to a national program offered through Congress.

I'm talking abut a nice 3-by-5-foot nylon flag. Or you can go larger and get a 5-by-8-foot one like the one I just requested, and it will just cost you about $24.

My hookup for ordering this affordable —and pedigreed — flag was U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, whose office answered my inquiry by emailing an easy-to-use order form that showed the assortment of flag choices along with prices and sizes.

The flags are available from both senators and representatives and each includes a certificate, which you can ask to be personalized for a particular person, event or organization. Talk about feeling special — there is even a place for a dedication message. And you can request a specific flying date like a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion!

Frankly, I was surprised at how easy it was to get one of these special flags, and inexpensive, too. I compared them with other flag sources online, where the prices for a 5-by-8-foot flag ranged from $33.50 to $71.99 each. And that was for plain ol' flags that never flew anywhere near the Capitol.

Program dates to 1937

According to Laura R. Condeluci, public affairs specialist for the Architect of the Capitol (which administers this program), the Capitol Flag Program began in 1937 when a member of Congress requested a flag that had flown over the Capitol.

She said that the focus of the program gradually expanded over the years and requests for Capitol flags rapidly outgrew the supply. "Hence, the Architect of the Capitol instituted a program of flying smaller flags on special Capitol flagpoles and then offering them for purchase through members' offices.

"Anyone who wants a flag flown over the Capitol can go to their own representative or one of the senators from their state," said Condeluci, who said it generally takes two to four weeks from the time the payment is received to actually get the flag.

She said her office fulfills on average more than 100,000 flag requests from members of Congress annually. She said the number of requests and the popularity of the program grows steadily each year.

Lots of options

In addition to choosing whether you want cotton (for indoors) or nylon (for outdoors), you can specify whether you want a flag that has flown over the Capitol, which costs $4.05 more than just a new flag.

There are also a lot of size options, from 3-by-5-feet to 8-by-12. Prices range from $13 or $14 for the little fella to $109.05 for the giant one, if it has flown over the U.S. Capitol. (Tip: It is a tad cheaper to order through your senator since those prices include postage while the representatives' order forms add $6-$7 for postage.)

To me, the surcharge is a small price to pay for those bragging rights.

The flag program "is a great American tradition," Cooper said. He said his office gets requests for about 75 flags a year, from schools, groups and individual constituents.

"I'm surprised we don't get more. It's neat to have a flag that has been flown over the Capitol," he said.

Yes, it is neat, and I bet that after this column runs, his office will get more than 75 requests this year.

I love government deals like this! Long live the red, white and blue!

Rules for proper American flag display

The Flag Code, which was adopted by Congress during World War II, created rules for display and treatment of the U.S. flag:

• Be sure that the stars are always in the upper lefthand corner of the displayed flag. The only time a flag should be upside down is as a distress signal.

• Choose a nylon flag if displaying outside; a cotton one for indoors.

• Be sure that when other flags are flown with the U.S flag that no other flag is larger than the American flag.

• The U.S. flag should always be the first raised and the last lowered when it is flown with flags representing states, communities or societies.

• Keep it off the ground. A U.S. Flag should not be allowed to touch the ground or any other object when it is being lowered.

• Fold the flag neatly and ceremoniously before storing it.

If you have questions about how to properly care for flags, see USFlag.org.

Replacement flag

If you have old damaged or worn out American flags, Randy Johnston's Goin' Postal location at 625 Bakers Bridge Ave. in the Cool Springs area will accept them and give you a free brand-new 4-by-6 nylon replacement flag, while supplies last.

Where to buy flags

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper: https://flagorder.house.gov/flagorder.aspx?ssdd=TN05

Sen. Lamar Alexander:www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=FlagRequests

Sen. Bob Corker: www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/flagrequests

American Legion Post 88's Auxiliary sells nylon flags with embroidered stars and sewn stripes for $20 for a 3-by-5, $25 for a 4-by-6 and $35 for a 5-by-8 flag. Order through Jo at 615-883-5452.

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