Flying The Flag At Half Staff
Last month many Americans, myself included, watched the elaborate funeral for our 41st president George H.W. Bush. American flags on all federal facilities were lowered to half-staff in a gesture of national mourning.
The practice of flying the flag at half-mast originated in the 1700s during the heyday of naval exploration and war in the Western world. Sailors continued this tradition into the modern age. The first known account in America was in 1799 when the country's ships lowered their flags upon the death of George Washington.
For years, there were no regulations regarding half-staff protocol but on March 1, 1954 President Eisenhower issued a proclamation detailing half-staff etiquette. By order of the President, flags shall be flown at half-staff to honor government officials, governors, and military figures who died. In the case of a former president, the flag remains at half-staff for 30 days following their death. The amount of days the flag is flown at half-staff is symbolic of the prominence of the person being honored. Along with former presidents and government officials, the President may order flags to half-staff for tragic events or the death of foreign dignitaries.
scheduled Days to Fly Half-Staff
- Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15th, unless that day is also Armed Forces Day (sunrise to sunset)
- Memorial Day (last Monday in May) from sunrise to noon. At noon, raise the flag briskly to honor the nation's battle heroes
- Patriot Day, September 11 (sunrise to sunset)
- National Firefighters Memorial Day, first Sunday in October
- Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7th (sunrise to sunset)
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