Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why we honor some with half-staff flags and not others.

I've received several emails from people slamming the President for not ordering flags to be flown at 1/2 staff to honor the members of DEVGRU (SEAL Team 6 to you proles).

Look, I'm certainly not going to vote for him, but I agree with Captain on this.  You wanna know why we shouldn't fly our flags at 1/2 staff for them, but we do when a sufficiently high-ranking officer, politician, or other national tragedy occurs?

Because we already do: 
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May.  Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated among black and Northern white communities after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. By the 20th century it had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  

In the end, the 30 men killed in Afghanistan, while a tragedy, and a huge loss to the Special Operations Community, do not warrant the rendering of any greater, or any fewer, honors than what is rendered to any other servicemember of equivalent rank who is killed in action.  Those 30 are but 30 of 6205 servicemembers who've died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Should we fly the flag at half-mast every time a servicemember is killed in action? 
We fly the flag at half-staff every memorial day, from sunrise to noon, to honor those who've fallen.  To honor ALL of those who've fallen. 

There are customary days to fly the flag at half-staff: 
  • Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15th (Unless that day is also Armed Forces Day.) (sunrise to sunset)
  • Memorial Day, last Monday in May (sunrise to noon)
  • Patriot Day, September 11th (sunrise to sunset)
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7th (sunrise to sunset)
There are only a few people who are expressly given this honor, and the length of time the flag is flown at half-staff for each differs.
  • Thirty days after the death of a president or former president
  • Ten days after the death of a vice president, the chief of justice or a retired chief of justice or the speaker of the house of representatives.
  • Until the burial of an associate justice of the Supreme Court, secretary of a military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.
  • On the day of and the day after the death of a (sitting) member of Congress.
To order the flag flown at half-staff across the nation, as in the case of recently deceased GEN Shalikashvili, is an extremely rare honor.   And one that, in my humble opinion, should be reserved.


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