Why Are the U.S. Flags at Half Staff Today?

Published on
May 25, 2023 at 10:20:00 AM PDT May 25, 2023 at 10:20:00 AM PDTth, May 25, 2023 at 10:20:00 AM PDT

We fly our flags at half-staff in order to show respect for those who have given their lives for the country, defending our land and our freedoms. Therefore, let’s remind ourselves of the dates when we should fly the flag half-staff for the whole day, and when for until noon.

If you want to see the most up-to-date half-staff proclamation, we recommend subscribing to our newsletter in the footer of our website, following our Facebook page, or visiting the half-staff American flag notification website.

U.S. Flags at Half Staff Today: Flag Holidays 

National flag holidays that require all the US flags to be half-staff are set every year and we dare say they haven’t been changed for quite a while.

You should fly the Old Glory at half-staff on these dates:

First Sunday in May: National Firefighters Memorial Day

Since 2017, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has encouraged the Light the Night for Fallen Firefighters tradition, so fire departments and families light the homes in red to honor the dead.

May 15th: Peace Officers Memorial Day

The memorial is held every year on 15th May to pay tribute to the local, state, and federal police officers that lost their lives or have been disabled during their service, i.e. in the line of duty. The holiday takes place during Police Week. Congress created the bill in 1961 and JF Kennedy signed it into law the following year.

Last Monday in May: Memorial Day

Originally, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day as the graves of some of the 600,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War were decorated in order to honor them and the official date was May 30th. However, in 1968 Congress decided to set the date on the last Monday in May so federal employees could have a three-day weekend.

September 11th: Patriot Day

Patriot Day is the most recently established holiday. It is not a federal holiday (yet), as the schools and businesses remain open, but some states celebrate it as a state holiday. The Patriot Day remembers the 2,977 people who were killed in the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. The bill to make September 11th the national mourning day was suggested in October that same year and it was soon approved. A moment of silence at 8:46 am (Eastern Daylight Time) marks the time the first plane struck the World Trade Center North Tower.

December 7th: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

As the name suggests, this memorial day honors over 2,400 US citizens that died on the day when the Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Consequently, the US declared war on Japan the following day and thus joined World War II. The Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day has been an official national holiday since 1994.

For all these days, the flag is flown at half-staff from sunrise till sunset, except for Memorial Day. The flag should be half-staff until noon, and then it should be briskly hoisted to the top.

Is the flag half-staff on Veteran’s Day? No, the flag is high in the sky as the nation celebrates and honors the veterans, not mourns them.

Periods of Mourning

Sadly, the above are not the only days when the flags aren’t high in the sky. The President, or the local government, may give a proclamation about a certain day or days becoming mourning days due to a tragic event. Such notifications are clear and done in advance. The mourning period can last more than a day, so it is recommendable to be updated about these.

U.S. Flag Half Staff Days: Deaths of State or Country Officials 

Death of (the most) important state or country officials, including the President, can be the reason for the flag to be half-staff for up to thirty days. Here is when and how long the flag should be in that position according to the law:

·          Death of the current or former president: 30 days

·          Death of the vice president: 10 days

·          Death of the chief justice/retired chief justice of the US Supreme Court: 10 days

·          House of Representatives speaker: 10 days

There is also a rule that a flag is to be half-staff from the death of an official until the interment day. The ceremony is done if the following officials pass away:

·   an associate justice of the Supreme Court

·   a former vice president

·   a member of the Cabinet

·   the majority leader of the Senate

·   the minority leader of the Senate

·   the president pro tempore of the Senate

·   the majority or minority leader of the House of Representatives.

In addition, all federal buildings, grounds, and naval vessels in the Washington D.C. in the case of death of the following government representatives:

·          United States senator

·          US representative

·          US territorial delegate

·          the resident commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Should a death of a governor of a state, territory, or possession occur, the flag is at half-staff on the federal facilities of the said state, territory, or possession.

Moreover, the President has the right to order the flag to be half-staff in the case of death of another government official, be it former or current, and foreign dignitaries too.

To learn when to fly your flags at half-staff, download our 2024 Half-Staff Flag Calendar.