What Does It Mean When the American Flag Is Displayed at Half-Staff?

Have you ever seen an American flag flying halfway up the flagpole? Known as half-mast or half-staff, it’s a common tradition in the United States as well as many other countries. On most days, however, the American flag is displayed all the way at the top of the flagpole. There are instances, however, in which it’s appropriate and even advised to display the American flag at half-staff. To learn more about the meaning of displaying the American flag at half-staff, keep reading.

Why the American Flag Is Displayed at Half-Staff

The American flag is displayed at half-staff as a sign of mourning and remembrance. The President has the authority to issue an executive order declaring the American flag to be flown in this manner as a symbol of respect to principle government workers and other figures who recently died. When an executive order such as this is issued, all public schools, government buildings and military bases are required to display the American flag at half-staff.

The length of time at which the American flag is displayed at half-staff varies depending on whom, exactly, it’s mourning and remembering. If a former President recently died, for example, it’s displayed at half-staff for 30 days. If a sitting Vice President dies, on the other hand, the American flag is displayed at half-staff for 10 days.

There are also special days of the year in which the American flag is flown at half-staff. On Sept. 11, for instance, the American flag is flown at half-staff. On Memorial Day, it’s flown at half-staff until noon.

Requirements for Displaying the American Flag at Half-Staff

You can check out the U.S. Flag Code for specific requirements on how to display the American flag at half-staff. Among other things, this piece of federal legislation states that the American flag should be initially hoisted all the top of the flagpole, at which point it can then be lowered halfway, resulting in a half-staff position.

The U.S. Flag Code also states that the American flag should be raised to the top of the flagpole immediately before it’s lowered for the day. In other words, before the flag is hoisted down and removed for the day, it should be raised to the top of the flagpole and then lowered.

To recap, the American flag is flown at half-staff as a sign of mourning and remembrance. Also known as half-mast, half-staff involves raising the American flag to the top of the pole, and then lowering halfway down the flagpole.

LIKE WHAT YOU READ?
Join thousands of others receiving our newsletter.
JOIN