Half-Staff Protocol

The other day I was on the phone with a friend and supporter of Honor and Remember who is a state senator from Oklahoma. We were discussing pending legislation in different areas around the country and specifically a bill that he was bringing forth in his state. The legislation that he was proposing has been passed by several states already, but it is one that he wanted to be sure was established in the state of Oklahoma. Since Oklahoma had already adopted the Honor and Remember Flag as its symbol of remembrance, this new legislation simply read, “Whenever there is a casualty of a military service member from Oklahoma, then the Honor and Remember Flag will be displayed below the U.S. flag at half-staff.”  Since similar legislation had been passed previously in other states, I was listening closely and certainly understood  its importance. However sometimes I think I’m so close to the message and the mission that its like the expression of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

The senator began to speak about the general protocol for lowering the United States flag to half-staff. The lowering of the flag is a long-standing and honorable part of our flag code that recognizes a tragic loss in our nation or in an individual state. The President of the United States and the governor of each state, following code parameters, can decide for whom the flag will be lowered with instructions. Read the code for more specific details. Although the flag code has rules for flag lowering, they have been used more as guidelines lately; A recent example of this was lowering the flag in memory of singer Whitney Houston in New Jersey. Lately, the U.S. flag has been lowered for a number of different reasons. My point is that the reason the U.S. flag is lowered at any given time often can be a mystery to the general citizenry.  How many times have you seen the flags at half-staff and wondered why?  We all have that same curiosity.

Last year, Arizona passed HB2020, legislating that the Honor and Remember Flag fly at half-staff under the U.S. flag on all government buildings whenever there is a military casualty in that state. It is a milestone for commemorating the loss and educating the state’s citizens. Why? Because once this becomes a tradition, everyone who passes those flags without a doubt, without exception, will know exactly why they have been lowered: To honor service members who gave their life and to remember those they left behind. There is absolutely no doubt that in this way we call specific attention to the price of freedom. And as we educate this nation about the meaning, purpose, and symbolism of the Honor and Remember Flag, all will be aware and stand in reverent respect.

As supporters of our mission, we can embrace that same protocol. If there is a casualty in your state, please consider flying the Honor and Remember Flag under your U.S. flag when it is at half-staff. If the flags are ordered to fly at half-staff in your state for other reasons, then remove the Honor and Remember Flag and let that reason stand for itself. Additionally, be sure that the Honor and Remember Flag legislation in your state reflects its displaying and lowering with the U.S. flag when at half-staff. If there is no legislation in your state to require this, contact your local representative and see if someone will introduce it. I cannot stress enough the importance of the public’s education, understanding and appreciation of the men and women who have given their lives and continue to give their lives and the thousands of hurting families who are left behind.

I appreciate those that continue to challenge me beyond the obvious, allowing me to see the all-important nuances of what we are trying to achieve. This truly historic mission has implications far beyond my initial expectations. Thank you for your understanding and continued support in the birth of a legacy in which we can all play a part.