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The Debate About Flying U.S. Flags at Half-staff

For some time, I have worked on an article about the controversy surrounding lowering the American flag to half-staff for our military members who are killed in action. The referenced article does a good job talking to people on both sides of the issue.

It is a thorny issue because if you are against the practice, you are deemed insensitive to the families of the soldiers who have died. If you are for flying the flag at half-staff, either for the duration of the war or for individual soldiers killed in action, you are chided over your insensitivity to the soldiers still serving.

Half-Staff Flags Stir Meaningful Debate
flag-at-half-staff.jpgHistorically, flying your nation’s flag at half-staff meant one thing.

Surrender.

Even before the white flag came to signal a request for truce, lowering the national flag over a battlefield was a darker expression of hopelessness. It meant, simply, a bitter end.

Now, we lower the U.S. flag to signify a nation in mourning. In a way, it’s a carryover from the old tradition. It’s a symbol of death – the ultimate submission.

It’s simultaneously an unmatched gesture of respect for the dead and a fundamental show of defeat.

This clash of symbols, one wrapped in the other, is the foundation of an emotional debate under way in Congress and nationwide in governors’ offices, military blogs, editorial pages, fire stations and VFW halls. It’s fueled by a push from some U.S. lawmakers to lower flags in individual states that are mourning locals killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am not in favor of lowering the flag to half-staff for two reasons.

First, the United States Flag Code is very specific about for whom, when and for how long, the American flag is lowered to half-staff. That is in Section 7(m), which also specifies who has the authority to order the U.S. flag lowered.

Second, I feel it dishonors the men and women who have fought bravely so the flag can fly high and free. It does a disservice to these and shows disrespect for their service.

Yes, it is a tough issue, but if we follow the guideline, the U.S. Flag Code, we are better off.

11 thoughts on “The Debate About Flying U.S. Flags at Half-staff

  1. It's interesting that Jeb Bush, brother of the President of the United States can't even honor the men that have fallen victim to the war his brother started.

  2. I think it's ashame that ALL states do not lower their flags whether or not someone died from their state.  This is utterly ridiculous.  That is what is wrong with our government now – no d*** consistency.  God help us all!!

  3. Maybe you should do a little research before you make such bulls*$# remarks like that. If you knew anything about the State of Florida you would know that Jeb Bush is no longer the governer of Florida. After 8 years in office, he was required to step down as governer. Secondly, had Clinton paid attention to what the senate was saying about his terrorist friends, we wouldn't be here anyways. So next time get your facts straight

  4. Maybe a completely different flag … perhaps black … flown under the state or national flag at full or half staff depending where the higher flag is that day and flown for a specified time … like three days … for each person killed in the conflict(s). Come to think of it anything you do could result in a nightmare of coordination withparks, firehouses, postoffices, federal buildings, etc.

  5. If we can fly the flag for a President who has died in his bed, we can lower the flag for a serviceman who has sacrificed his life in combat. Perhaps we should lower the  flag in every city George Bush visits, so he and others are constantly reminded of the sacrifice being made on a daily basis. 

  6. Lowering the flag is only given this kids respect. It is a disgrace that states are not making it mandatory! One thing about it that since we seem to be loosing more of our people than necessary, the flags will be lowered all the time.  It is now time to bring our militray home and take care of them. This is not a war that needs to be fought by us anymore. We have natural disasters that our National Guardsmen are not here to help the authorities because they have been deployed. Bush needs to look at the needs of AMERICANS and put AMERICANS first on his priority list. Servicemen and women coming home are having their benefits reduced. Look at all the servicemen that are committing suicide lately after coming home. I have a friend that is on the list to return within the year for her 3rd tour over there! These kids are coming home with some MAJOR mental and physical issues that the government is not taking care of for them. Some of them are being sent back home due to the mental stress on them and once they are "OK'd" enough, they are sent back. This is going to cause some long term problems for the government and people need to do something about it. I support our troops, just not the reason why they are there. I pray that this ends soon so our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, dads, moms, EVERYONE IS HOME SAFELY and no one else dies for their countries problems.

  7. Keep it simple:  Lower the flag at all government facilities in every State for the entire duration of the war/conflict to honor all servicemen and women who die serving our Country.  This practice will serve as a way of honoring all of our fallen heroes and remind the rest of us that our County is still at war. 

  8. I think all states should lower flags for their own fallen soldiers and if it has to be lowered all the time, all the better to remind the citizenery what this stupit war is costing us!

  9. On Memorial Day we checked around the Sacramento, California area to see if we could see any flags flying at half mast.  None found at any post offices, none found at any schools, none found at any state offices including the Capital, the flag at the Vietnam Memorial was not at half mast.  Finally we found one — at the federal building.  Somehow it seems that, at a minimum, flags should be at half mast on this one day that we honor our fallen military — Memorial Day. 

  10. This is pretty well a mute subject, although I fly the flag daily most "AMERICANS" don't.  First lets get our people to fly the flag and be proud of it. Even public institutions don't fly the flag, schools, churches etc.  What I'm trying to say is first let's get "AMERICANS'  to fly a FLAG and then worry about when we fly them at half most.   

  11. […] wrote about the half-staff issue here and here, and had a lot of comments about my views. In this, like other controversies, everyone has […]

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