I have noticed that since former president Gerald Ford passed away, flags have been at half staff. It has been about 3 weeks so it got me wondering how long they need to stay at half staff. Also, how do people who have flags know when to lower them, how much to lower them and how long to keep them lowered?
I found that there are 4 instances in which the flag is to be lowered to half staff. These include: Memorial Day, Peace Officers Memorial Day, at the direction of the President of the United States, at the direction of the state government. There is one exception to that. If Peace Officers Memorial Day falls on the third Saturday of May it then falls on the same day as Armed Forces Day. In that instance, the flag should be flown at the peak instead of half staff.
So what is the time frame that the flag should be flown at half staff for each occasion? For Memorial Day and Peace Officers Memorial Day a single day at half staff is called for. With the death of any member of congress the flag should be at half staff for the day of and day after the death. For an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of an Executive or Military Department, a former Vice President, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession of the United States the appropriate time for half staff flag is from the day of the death to the day of the internment.
As you get higher up in office rank the half staff period gets longer. For the sitting Vice President, any sitting or former Supreme Court Justice or the speaker of the house of representatives the appropriate half staff time frame is 10 days from the death. The President or former President gets 30 days from the death. That would explain why I am still seeing flags at half staff.
There are occasions when the President of the United States will instruct the American people to hold the flag at half staff. This can be for situations such as September 11, 2001 or the death of any well respected person from this country or out of respect for a leader of another country. A good way to find these updates out is to go to the official website for the White House. www.whitehouse.gov.
I have also found out some information about the way in which you are supposed to raise and lower a flag to half staff. You always briskly raise the flag all the way to the peak of the pole and then slowly lower to half staff. At noon time you are supposed to again raise the flag all the way to the peak of the pole and then slowly lower down to half staff. Then at the end of the day you are supposed to once again raise the flag to the top of the pole and then slowly lower but this time all the way to the bottom.
I never really realized how much thought went into having a flag. I think it is really interesting. It makes me appreciate that much more all of the people that take the time and effort to wave our nations flag.