Memorial Day is a unique half-staff flag holiday because on this day, the American flag is flown at half-mast from sunrise until noon, and then briskly raised to full-staff until sunset, per the United States Flag Code. Then, at 3:00 PM local time, with flags at full-staff, we honor the fallen in a National Moment of Remembrance. Americans are asked to pause, reflect, and remember all those who sacrificed their lives in military service.

Memorial Day is the only half-staff holiday where flags are raised to full-staff at midday. As described in the U.S. Flag Code, "The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day."

Why is the flag only half-staff until noon on Memorial Day?

We reserve the morning hours on Memorial Day to mourn the more than a million Americans who lost their lives in service. At noon, their memory is raised by the living who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty.

Raising the flag to full-staff at noon on Memorial Day symbolizes our commitment as a country to keep the memory of our fallen soldiers alive, just as we continue to fight for and defend our living freedoms. The U.S. Flag Code states, "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing," which is why on this especially solemn and significant flag holiday, we raise the stars and stripes to the top of our flagpoles, so we can remember that our nation and its ideals live on thanks to the many who died fighting for it.

What are all the half-staff flag holidays throughout the year?

We fly the American flag at half-staff on National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in May, Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15, Patriot Day on September 11, and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7. See our full list of flag holidays to know when to fly your flag at half-staff or full-staff throughout the year.

How do you fly a flag half-staff at home?

If you have a house-mounted flagpole, this is not long enough to fly the American flag at half-staff, so etiquette dictates you can fly a black mourning streamer atop your flag instead. See our guide to flying your flag half-staff at home with a mourning ribbon.

What else can you do to honor Memorial Day, in addition to flying the flag at half-staff?

We put together a list of 6 ways to honor the fallen on Memorial Day. During the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 PM, you may choose to center your reflections on one of these two Memorial Day poems.

"Memorial Day" by Frederick W. Emerson

Our Nation is reverently thinking today
Of the loved ones sleeping beneath the cold clay;
Of the sacrifice made, and the brave deeds done,
To preserve our Union as a glorious one.
We ne'er will be able to pay the great cost
Of the noble, the true, and the brave that we've lost;
But over their graves, with tears like the dew,
We'll lay our sweet flowers of red, white and blue.

Our Nation is paying its tribute today
Upon the green mounds where its loyal men lay;
While statesman, and orator, fondly repeat
The story of those who knew no defeat.
They tell of the Union united again,
By the triumph of those who died not in vain;
Of the [fifty]* states all loyal and free,
Of the peace, and the freedom, from sea to sea.

Our Nation is thinking, rejoicing, to day,
While comrades are kneeling their tribute to pay;
And hearts once sorrowing, rejoice now to see
The "Star Spangled Banner," the flag of the free.
For out of their loyalty and brave deeds done,
Out of their battles and their victories won,
Came freedom and peace, and in liberty's name
Our banner floats freely, with glory and fame.

Our Nation is reverently thinking today
Of the men now living who'll soon pass away;
Like the grass of the field and the flowers they spread
O'er the graves of their comrades, immortal, dead,
Tall monuments stand to their memory dear,
But they crumble and fall, like the leaf when sere;

Our Nation united, forever will stand,
To those who preserved it, a monument grand.
Wherever we gather today 'neath "The Stars,"
Let's honor the living now wearing the scars
Which they brought from the fields of battle and strife,
While protecting "Our Flag," and our Nation's life.
Let the flowers bear tribute in their simple way.
And each one remember Memorial Day;
Remember the dead, and the living, though few,
Who fought 'neath "The Stars," and the red, white and blue.

*The original poem states "forty four" states according to when it was written.

"Requiem" by Lenore Hetrick

Note: This poem is appropriate to share and reflect on with children. 

Let our songs rise sweet and gently
For soldiers gone who once were here.
Let the music whisper softly
For this flowering springtime of the year.
Those for whom we offer song
On this new Memorial Day
Once were young and laughing, too,
Yet now they have fallen away.
From the towns and from the farms
Light of heart the soldiers came.
Each one wore upon his brow
A tall yet invisible flame.
To the sound of forceful horns
The soldiers swiftly marched away
They marched to beating of the drums,
And knew they had but to obey.
So today let songs be soft and sweet,
For this flowering springtime of the year.
We sing for those who once were young,
And once were happy – and once were here.

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