Christopher S. Rainwater: American flag is worthy of respect |

Christopher S. Rainwater: American flag is worthy of respect

Whether deaths from acts of terrorism or the passing of a former President of the United States, it seems like the American flag flies at half-staff more and more these days. One could even argue that our nation lives in a “half-staff” era.

As a veteran, I find myself noticing when local governments and businesses fail to lower their flags and thereby pay tribute to the lost (such as those murdered in the Texas church shooting), or in the alternative forget to raise their flags to full staff when the officially designated time for mourning is complete. I’ve called quite a few organizations over the years to remind them, and for the most part, my reminders have been gratefully received.

When it comes to wondering if your flag should be flying at half-staff, there are clues that can help. First and most obvious perhaps is that others have lowered their flags to half-staff. That might make one wonder why it was lowered and whether their own flag should also be lowered.

To avoid guessing whatsoever, there are a couple of websites ( and which tell you when the flag has been ordered by the President to half-staff. Both sites even offer an e-mail widget that will e-mail you whenever the flag should be lowered or raised. By the way, unless you live on a ship, where the flag would be flown from the mast (half-mast), the correct term is “staff.”

It’s important to remember that the President cannot order American flags of private organizations to half-staff as that would be a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution (free speech and expression). The President’s orders to fly the flag at half-staff apply to federal government agencies.

Because it is unlawful to fly any flag, including a state flag, above the American flag, organizations that fly multiple flags must also lower their flags to half-staff. Of course, most organizations want to honor the meaning behind lowering the flag regardless of the President who ordered it – respect for the fallen is rarely a political issue.

Finally, for those who take the time and invest in flying Ole’ Glory – thank you. Please take a few minutes to look at your flag to ensure that it is not ripped, torn or overly worn. If it is, please buy a new flag and provide the worn flag to any local VFW or American Legion Post. The members of those posts will gladly ensure that the flag is properly retired at absolutely no cost to you. If you fly your flag after dark, please remember to ensure that it is not enveloped in darkness.

Whatever our differences, let us agree that our flag, the flag representing the American people, is worthy of respect. The millions of Americans who have fought, served or died under our flag are likewise worthy of our eternal respect and gratitude.

Merry Christmas to all,

Dr. Christopher S. Rainwater, MPA, MSOH, CSMP


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