When do you lower the American flag? Why do you lower the flag? How do you lower the flag?
The U.S. Flag Code is very specific in regulating the days the U.S. flag is to be lowered to half-staff. Section 7(m) spells out in detail exactly when, who, why, and how to properly fly the U.S. flag on the designated or mandated days.
When to lower the U.S. Flag
When to fly the flag at half-staff is a two part answer. By congressional order, the U.S. Flag Code designates specific dates to fly the American flag at half-staff. Those days are listed here. These dates have historical significance, such as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, every year on December 7th.
There are eighteen days listed, which Flags Bay tracks on our public calendar.
Who can order the U.S. flag to fly at half-staff?
The U.S. Flag Code, again, is very specific in listing who precisely can order the U.S. flag to fly at half-staff: The President of the United States and any of our State Governors. There is regular controversy over this issue, and last week a mayor resigned because he believed in adhering to the U.S. Flag Code.
Why lower the U.S. Flag?
Lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff serves a couple of purposes. The specific days designated in the U.S. Flag Code shows the flag lowered for mourning or respect. If you look at the list of eighteen days, you can quickly determine the meaning for each.
The main purpose in this day and time is to mourn the loss of life in the defense of our country. Many state governors mandate the American flag to half-staff for resident soldiers killed in action. President Bush signed an amendment to the U.S. Flag Code adding soldiers to the list.
How to lower the U.S. Flag
Again, the Flag Code is very specific with instructions on lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff. Here is the text of the Code.
(m) The flag, when flown at half-staff, first should be hoisted briskly to the peak for an instant and then lowered slowly to the half-staff position. The flag should be raised again to the peak before it is lowered for the day.
But what if your flag is lighted and regularly flies at full-staff? Because the American flag is already at full-staff, the only requirement is to slowly lower the flag to half-staff for the designated time, then briskly raise it back to full-staff when the designated time is completed.
If you fly a house flag mounted on a stationary pole, there is a way for showing the same sentiment as lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff. Deborah’s article details how you show the half-staff sentiment on the needed days by using black streamers. This practice is not outlined in the Flag Code, but is a traditional custom for showing respect and mourning.
Another interesting part of Section 7(m) is at the end, it defines some of the terms used in the Section to avoid confusion.
(1) the term “half-staff” means the position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff;
(2) the term “executive or military department” means any agency listed under sections 101 and 102 of title 5, United States Code; and
(3) the term “Member of Congress” means a Senator, a Representative, a Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.
There you have a complete primer on properly lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section.