Flags at half-staff

Recently, a letter from a South Williamsport retired military vet was published urging everyone to lower their flags to half-staff until our troops come home. This appeal was made while flags were lowered for the tragedy in Boston, yet he noted our troops are dying every day and apparently wasn’t aware of flags being lowered in their honor. As a military vet myself, I am very sympathetic to his appeal, but I am also comforted and guided by the half-staff provisions of the United States Flag Code.

The U.S. Flag Code, enacted by Congress on June 22, 1942, has been amended over the years to provide instructions and rules for the proper display and use of the flag by civilians. It includes the times and occasions for display, position and manner of display, how to show respect for the flag, and detailed rules for flying the flag at half-staff, including the appropriate authority and occasions for doing so.

Only the President of the United States and the Governors of each state have the authority to order the U.S. flag to be displayed at half-staff for stipulated time periods. In addition, each governor has the authority to lower the U.S. and state flags to half-staff to honor the death of members of the Armed Forces from their jurisdictions.

Regarding the April 15th tragedy in Boston, President Obama had issued a proclamation on the following day as a “mark of respect for the victims” ordering the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff throughout the nation until sunset on Saturday April 20th. This was followed by similar proclamations by each state governor, all according to the Flag Code.

The point of this explanation is to assure Sun-Gazette readers that while the president will, from time to time, order the American flag to be flown at half-staff to honor victims of tragic events of nation-wide significance, our governor also will continue to honor our fallen active military personnel with orders for the U.S. and Pennsylvania flags to be flown at half-staff at the Capitol Complex and Commonwealth facilities in the county where the fallen are to be buried.

To keep up to date on half-staff orders from the President, log on to the White House website and click on Proclamations. Gov. Corbett’s half-staff orders can be found at the Governor’s Press Office website. There are also free half-staff email notification services on the web. Search with key words such as “half-staff” and “flag status”.

On behalf of all Sun-Gazette readers, I thank the South Williamsport retired military vet for his service and for his heart felt concerns about honoring our fallen military service personnel. Perhaps we all could honor the spirit of his concerns by tying a yellow ribbon to the most prominent tree or structure in our front yard until everyone is home for good. That has been a long standing patriotic American tradition.

Bill Jameson


Submitted by Virtual Newsroom