Flying a flag at half-staff is a symbol that
the nation, or a particular state, is in a time of mourning or remembrance. The
term “half-staff” (or “half-mast”) refers to the position of the flag when it
is halfway between the top of the flagpole and the bottom of the flagpole.
When do I fly my United States flag at half-staff?
The U.S. Flag Code §7 states the following:
“The (U.S.) flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the
death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of
a State, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the
event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be
displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in
accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.”
So, what does this mean? In the event that the
United States flag should be lowered to half-staff, the President will issue a
proclamation to do so. The length of time the flag is flown at half-staff may
vary, but during the proclamation the President will also declare the length of
time it should be flown in that position. Other times that you will fly the
United States flag at half-staff include all national flag-flying holidays,
such as Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day and December 7. In this manner, we honor
the memory of those who fought for us.
For more information on Flag Holidays, click here.
The Governor of a state may also request that
residents of that state fly the flag at half-staff “in the event of the death of a present or former official of the
government of (their respective) State, territory, or possession of the United
States, or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from (their respective)
State, territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty.” While
mayors are not permitted to issue this proclamation, the Mayor of the District
of Columbia is permitted to make the same request just as the governors do.
What about other flags on a flagpole? When do I fly those at half-staff?
Flags other than the United States Flag are
permitted to be flown at half-staff. For instance, the Governor can request the
state flag be flown at half-staff. If there is a school flag, or club flag, and
that school, or club, is in a time of mourning or remembrance, they may lower
their organization’s flag to half-staff, but they are not permitted to request
the US flag, state flag, or city flag be flown at half-staff..
What if my flag cannot be lowered to fly at half-staff?
Most commercial flagpoles have the ability to
hoist and lower a flag using the flagpole’s rope and pulley system. However,
not every flagpole has this capability. Flags that are displayed from a staff,
or pole, horizontally or at an angle from a windowsill, balcony, or front
building do not have the capabilities to have the flag lowered at half-staff.
Therefore, the alternative is to attach a Half-Staff Mourning Streamer to your
Click here for more information on our Half-Staff
Historians believe that wearing black to
symbolize mourning dates back to the Roman Empire. Whenever someone was
grieving a loss, they would don all black, and even cover their faces with
black veils. To this day, many traditions call for people to wear black when
attending a funeral. As a result of this tradition, the black ribbon, or
mourning streamer, is also symbolic of a time of mourning. Therefore, whenever
tragedy hits, or we are in a time of remembrance, the Half-Staff Mourning
Streamer is considered an acceptable substitute for symbolizing mourning on
flagpoles that cannot fly a flag at half-staff.
Unlike lowering the flag to half-staff, the
mourning streamer can be displayed at any time an individual, or a group, is in
mourning. Two inches wide and sixty inches long, the mourning streamer is
finished with a grommet on top that can easily connect to the top of a
flagpole. Because the mourning streamer does not represent a country, or
organized union, it is not disrespectful to fly it above the US Flag, and
placing it above the US flag is considered proper flag etiquette.
Learn proper Flag Etiquette for lowering a flag to half-staff.
When the nation, or your state, is in
observance of a holiday, or person(s), you can stand in solidarity by lowering
your flag to half-staff, or attaching a mourning streamer to the top of your