Why are flags half-staff on Thursday, November 7? Although there are no national half-staff proclamations from President Donald Trump, a number of states have proclamations in place from sunrise to sunset today. 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 Virginia, the state flags will be flown at half-staff for 30 days, from October 29 to November 28, in honor of Gov. Gerald Baliles. He died at the age of 79 after a battle with cancer. He served as Virginia’s governor from 1986 to 1990. Gov. Ralph Northam issued the following statement:
I am deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Governor Gerald Baliles.
As the 65th Governor of Virginia, he understood and valued the role government can play in improving citizens’ lives. He transformed Virginia’s transportation infrastructure, signed Virginia into the Chesapeake Bay agreement under which we still operate today, and focused on expanding access to higher education, among many other accomplishments.
Governor Baliles fought for rural Virginians, promoted civil discourse, and was the epitome of a true public servant.
While his accomplishments in office were, and remain, impressive, I will miss him for the kind ear and the sound advice he was always willing to give to me. Pam and I send our deepest sympathies to his wife, children, and loved ones.
I have directed that Virginia state flags be flown at half-staff in Governor Baliles’ honor for the next 30 days.”
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered that U.S. and state flags be flown half-staff at the State Capitol Complex and at all public buildings and grounds from November 4 through November 10 to honor former Congressman John Conyers. Whitmer said in a statement about Conyers: “Congressman John Conyers was a lifelong Detroiter who was deeply committed to the city and to those he represented. His impact on our state, whether by spearheading reforms in criminal justice and voting rights in Congress or through his lifetime of civil rights activism, will not be forgotten. I extend my deepest condolences to Congressman Conyers’ family for their loss.”
Conyers was the longest-serving African-American member of Congress in the history of the U.S., serving nearly 53 years. Conyers’ funeral will be November 4 at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Fox 47 News reported.
In Wisconsin, flags are half staff until November 10, 2019, in honor of firefighter Brian Serdynski of the Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Department. The proclamation was issued by Gov. Tony Evers. Serdynski tragically died on November 2 in the line of duty. He was married and had three young children.
Serdynski had a heart attack on October 19 while on duty and was released from the hospital on October 21, The Journal Times reported. He was cleared to return to duty after seeing his cardiologist. His wife Rachael began CPR at his home, but he had no pulse. Firefighters tried for an hour to revive him. His colleagues said he was an anchor for the department.
A GoFundMe has been set up for his family. You can donate to it here.
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.