Tag Archives: half-staff

Being of Two Minds and Some Clarification


I’ve been writing over the last several year. Writing quite a bit. I never thought that I’d actually on day be a writer let alone an author, but, here I am and I thoroughly enjoy what I do because I help to educate others and pass along the knowledge that I have obtained from many sources. Those sources have been people, the Flag Code and service manuals for drill and ceremonies, etiquette, flags and banners, etc.

One thing that has bothered me for several years is info surrounding having the American flag at half staff. Read these two articles as a preface to the following The American Flag at Half-Staff. and The US and POW/MIA at Half-Staff.

Here is my take:
The American flag has the honor of being lowered into the mourning position. State, territory flags receive that same honor, but organizational (business) flags do not. It is an honor position and no other flag should be lowered because no other flag receives that honor. It’s the same with draping a flag over a casket: the US, state or territory flag is draped, none other.

The other point of view:
No flag should be higher than the American flag. Period.

My response:OK, I got it; I fully understand this, however… The mourning position is special. Period. There is no reason to lower any other flag.

Half-staff, half-mast
Half-staff, half-mast

I changed the wording in the first-listed article after a firefighter friend of mine and I had a nice discussion about it. I saw his point and did not want to pass along bad information, hence the change. I just received a note from another friend of mine asking for my clarification and that is why I am writing this. If two people have contacted me, I am quite sure that at least 100 others have noticed the discrepancy. I will make sure that all information is consistent in the “no flag is to be higher” but I will also ensure that my take on this issue is spelled out. I would really appreciate more clarification in the official guidance to help Americans understand. Maybe I can do something about that.

I welcome your responses to this and all articles that I have written. May your days be blessed!

Picture at top right courtesy of socialdailyphoto.com. Picture at left courtesy kellog.edu

Presidential Proclamation for the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing Victims

Fenway Park Half StaffPresidential Proclamation — Honoring the victims of the tragedy in Boston, Massachusetts
– – – – – – –
As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on April 15, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, April 20, 2013.
I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
Signed by the President

photo courtesy bleachreport.net

When a National Tragedy Strikes

That is when I receive many visits to my site seeking half-staff, half-mast and black mourning ribbon information which is exactly why I have written all about this in other articles which will most likely show up below in the related posts area or, you can click one of the tags at the bottom right regarding this subject. Half-staff/mast is a sign of mourning.

Here is a question I just received:

If flags are supposed to be flown at half staff and you cannot do that is it disre spect ful  to have a flag out?

Not at all. But please bear this in mind:

  • A flag that is mounted is never put at half-staff. A mounted flag is one that is on a flagstaff that a color team/guard carries or one that is attached to a short pole that is placed in a bracket that is attached to a pillar, post or door frame.
  • A mounted flag is the only flag that has a black mourning ribbon attached to the top of the flagstaff, just above the flag.
  • A flag that is flown from a flag pole that is raised and lowered by a rope/halyard is the only flag that is lowered to half-staff (land) or half-mast (sea).

So, it is quite probably that it is not impossible to lower your flag. You just have a mounted flag.

US and POW/MIA at Half-Staff?

NO! I took this photo on the way back from drill team practice at one of my schools. I understand the thinking: “nothing can be higher than the American flag” which is not true. Read here for more info on that. In this picture though, is already a mourning flag and does not get lowered to half-staff. “But it would be higher than the American flag!” I know. That would be the case for the day, in this case Sept. 11th 2012. The American flag would be in the mourning position. It is supposed to be lower on that day and others.

I’ve spoken with someone at the business before and they do not seem to want the information. Oh well.

State Flags on Sept. 11 (Half Staff)

Are state flags flown at half-staff on September 11th?

Yes, check your state’s guidance. Here is an example from www.state.md.us. State flags do not have to be flown at half staff when the American flag is flown at half staff. The American flag flown at half staff is a sign of mourning, during that time it does not matter that another flag is higher because of the purpose of the mourning position.

Half-staff is the term used on land. Half-Mast is the term used at sea or on land in the Navy/Marine Corps.

The American Flag at Half-Staff

Staff = on land
Mast = at sea or on a Navy/Marine installation

Never fly a fringed flag on a stationary or mounted (on a wall or post) flagstaff. See this article for information.

Many countries fly their flag at half-staff for special occasions and you can see when to fly the flag at half-staff on the widget on my main page at the right-hand side, but here is some interesting information on when to fly our flag at half-staff:

  • For thirty days after the death of a current or former president or president-elect.
  • For ten days after the death of a current vice president, current or retired chief justice, or current speaker of the House of Representatives.
  • From the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.
  • On the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.
  • On Memorial Day until noon.
  • Upon presidential proclamation.
  • Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), unless that day is also Armed Forces Day.
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7).
  • Patriot Day (September 11).
  • The first Sunday in October for National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day
    4 U.S.C. § 7(m) was modified by President Bush in 2007 requiring any federal facility within a region to honor a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who died on active duty.

The when is taken care of, but how is flying the flag at half-staff accomplished?

Raise the flag as normal, quickly to the top and then slowly to half-staff. When the flag is ready to come down, raise it quickly to the top and then lower it slowly all the way down.

What’s a Mourning Ribbon?

A black ribbon that is attached to the top of the flagstaff- yes, above the American flag- for occasions of mourning. See the picture at left and right. These two flags pictured cannot be brought to half-staff (no halyard on the staff), so the mourning ribbon signifies the occasion.

an_outrigger_pole_set flagpolefarm-com

What about when other flags fly with it? Don’t all of the flags need to be flown at half-staff?

Yes, and no. American state flags are given the same consideration in each state as the American flag. Our Founding Fathers gave the term “United ‘States'” to all of the territories which was shocking back then since “state” means a nation. Each American state has its own laws concerning their flag. Here is information concerning Maryland’s flag laws as an example. The picture here of the DC police (from washingtonpost.com) with all three flags lowered is fine for the United States. However, lowering anything other than an American, state and territory flags is in keeping with the reason behind the flag being at half-staff: organizational flags, really any other flag (in America, that is) should be lowered to half-staff since they would be higher than the American flag even though they have no part in rendering the honor or signaling mourning. It is a similar situation like we see next.

But the American flag is lower than the other flags in this picture!

Take some deep breaths, you’re missing the point here. Not all countries have to lower their flags and not all flags must be at the same height all of the time. This 1968 photo, by John Wright on Smugmug, is from the Viet Nam war. The picture is from when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It was not necessary for another country to lower their flag. This situation is proper.

A similar situation is when an overseas military installation loses one of its active duty members. It is a sad, solemn occasion and the installations American flag is flown at half-staff for a short period as a signal to all that the base lost one of its own. The host nation’s flag do not need to be brought to half-staff; it is not necessary. The liaison to the base can say otherwise. The point here is not stop getting worked up over something that is relatively trivial. Don’t just think you know the rules, read them and have them ready as a reference.

What about other flags at half-staff and the American flag at full staff?

Some states may have an occasion to do this and it would not be appropriate for the American flag to be flown at half-staff. Here is an example:

What about a flag draped on a casket?

See here.

What if I want my dog to crawl from under the flag while it is on the floor? The dog means no disrespect.

I’m sure it doesn’t! However, I’d like to draw your attention to some key words here, the flag is on the floor. It is also draped over an animal, not a casket and not flying free. Does that give you any clue as to how disrespectful it is? Folks, this is not my photo, I’m just using it to illustrate a point. And yes, I was told that the dog does not mean any disrespect when I told the owner of the photo that the dog is cute but the flag on the floor isn’t cute.

Many people have the wrong thing and keep doing it because they don’t know what is proper or don’t care what is proper. Flag Etiquette from USHistory.org.

I’ll title the following photos that I found on the web (you can click each picture):


I guess that’s enough for this article. Questions or comments? Please let me know!