Why are flags half-staff, Saturday, October 26 through Tuesday, October 29? Although there are no national half-staff proclamations from President Donald Trump, a number of states have proclamations in place from sunrise to sunset. These are honoring people who have served their state or country and are no longer with us. Here’s a look at the people being honored this weekend by lowered flags across the country.
States Are Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Those No Longer with Us
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered that U.S. and Michigan flags be flown at half staff in the State Capitol Complex and in public buildings and grounds in Michigan starting October 18 until November 1 to honor each year that former Gov. William Milliken served in office, WHTC reported. Flags should be back at full-staff on November 2. Milliken is Michigan’s longest-serving governor. He was a combat soldier in World War II and received a Purple Heart. He died on October 18, 2019.
Whitmer said in a statement: “Gov. Milliken was a true statesman who led our state with integrity and honor. He had a unique ability to bring people from both sides of the aisle together for the betterment of Michigan. I extend my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Gov. Milliken’s family for their loss.”
In Ohio, state and national flags will be half-staff from October 22 through sunset on the day of his funeral on November 2 to honor Corporal Thomas Cole Walker. Flags will be half-staff on all public buildings and grounds throughout Ashtabula County, the Ohio Statehouse, the Vern Riffe Center, and the Rhodes State Officer Tower. Walker was killed during a training exercise in Fort Stewart in Georgia. He was only 22. Walker’s funeral is scheduled for November 2 at 2 p.m. at New Leaf United Methodist Church. His body will be returned home on October 29 and a procession will accompany him to the Marcy Funeral Home. Visitation will be November 1 at the New Leaf United Methodist Church from 2-4 p.m and 6-9 p.m, then November 2 from 12-2 p.m.
In California, flags flew half-staff through October 26 to honor El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Ishmael. He was shot and killed while responding to a call for service. Three people were charged in connection with his shooting on Thursday.
The state proclamation from Gov. Gavin Newsom reads:
Jennifer and I were terribly saddened to learn that Deputy Ishmael was shot and killed this morning while courageously serving and protecting the people of El Dorado County. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, friends, and colleagues during this painful time.
Deputy Ishmael, 37, was fatally shot today while responding to a call for service in Somerset, CA. A deputy with another county was on a ride-along with Deputy Ishmael during the call and was injured in the shooting. The deputy has been released from the hospital.
Deputy Ishmael was a four-year veteran of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. He previously worked for the Placerville Police Department.
Deputy Ishmael is survived by his wife and three daughters.
In honor of Deputy Ishmael, flags at all state buildings will be flown at half-staff.”
In Pennsylvania, state flags flew half-staff on October 27 in memory of the people killed in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting last year. Commonwealth flags at all commonwealth facilities, public buildings, and grounds will also fly half-staff on Sunday. Eleven people were killed in the horrific shooting. You can read about them in Heavy’s story here. Gov. Tom Wolf’s proclamation also calls for the 27th to be a “Remember Repair Together” day statewide. The congregation plans to rebuild their synagogue.
Wolf’s proclamation reads: “A year has passed, but I continue to carry sorrow for the victims and their families of this heinous attack. We must honor them by remembering, and through our thoughts, prayers and actions. I ask all Pennsylvanians to spend Oct. 27 doing the same in their honor. Pittsburgh is a city of bridges, and so it is a fitting tribute to commemorate this occasion with a day of building bridges of understanding, welcome and friendship.”
In North Carolina, U.S. and state flags flew half-staff at state facilities from sunrise to sunset on October 26. Gov. Roy Cooper said that this is in memory of Marine Private First Class John T. Burke and all who serve this country but don’t return home.
The proclamation reads:
Governor Roy Cooper today ordered all United States and North Carolina flags at state facilities to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, October 26 in honor of US Marine Private First Class John T. Burke and all those who have fought for our country overseas and never returned home.
PFC Burke, a native of Icard, North Carolina, was declared missing in action while serving in World War II during the 1943 Battle of Tarawa. After nearly 80 years, his remains will be returned home to family and friends on Thursday, October 24 providing much-needed closure to his loved ones. Services for PFC Burke will be held on Saturday, October 26 in Hickory, North Carolina.
Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are welcome to fly the flag at half-staff for the same duration of time.”
Burke was accounted for after all these years on May 15, 2019. He and his Company B landed on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in an attempt to secure the island. 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and 2,000 were injured in the battle. Burke was reported to have died on the second day of the battle on November 21, 1943. The battle was seen as a huge victory for the U.S. because securing the Gilbert Islands allowed the U.S. a place to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands.
Service members who died were buried on the island and remains were recovered from 1946 to 1947 and sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory in 1947. Remains that still weren’t identified by 1949 were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu. On January 23, 2017, Burke’s remains were disinterred for identification. Using DNA analysis and radiograph comparison, Burke was identified. There are still 72,657 service members from World War II not accounted for.
Burke will be buried in Hickory, North Carolina on October 26, 2019. His personnel file can be read here.
In Twin Falls, Idaho, state and U.S. flags are half staff from October 28 to November 1 to honor former Twin Falls Fire Chief Ron Clark. This proclamation is for public facilities in Twin Falls, but anyone is invited to lower their flags in Clark’s honor too.
Flag Half-Staff Traditions
It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset, unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for the U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the President of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official passes away.
If you’re wondering about the term half-mast vs. half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on a building. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.