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United States of America
Native American History
Flags

What does it mean when the flag is flown at half staff?

Answer

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December 31, 2013 12:00AM

Flying the U.S. flag at half-staff (also called "half mast") is an expression of honor and respect for the dead.

The flag is flown regularly at half-staff from sunrise until noon on Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, then flown from the top of the staff from noon until sunset.

It is flown at half-staff all day from sunrise until sunset on Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), except when it falls on Armed Forces Day (3rd Saturday of May), on Patriot Day (September 11) and on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7). In 2001, President George W. Bush also approved a law requiring Federal buildings to fly half-staff in rememberance of fallen firefighters along with the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service, typically celebrated the second Sunday in October.

In addition to these regular remembrances, The US flag is flown half-mast for the following:

  • 30 days after the death of a current or former president
  • 10 days after the death of a current vice president, current Speaker of the House or current/retired chief justice.
  • From death to interment for a former associate justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, the Senate president pro tem or a state/territory governor
  • For the day after the death of a member of Congress.
  • Any presidential proclamation, particularly after a national tragedy, natural disaster or in honor of someone of great social/political importance, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, 9/11 or in rememberance of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.