Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today? See Proclamations for October 21-22

Why are flags flying half staff?

Getty Why are flags flying half-staff?

Why are United States flags flying at half-staff today? You’ll be seeing U.S. flags at government buildings and other places across the country flying at half-staff today through sunset on October 22, 2021, in honor of General Colin Powell. President Joe Biden put a proclamation in effect on October 18. Some states are also flying their flags at half-staff at state buildings too. Read on to learn more details about why the flags are lowered.


Flags Are Flying Half-Staff for General Colin Powell

Flags will be flying at half-staff through sunset on Friday, October 22. Here is the Presidential Proclamation by Biden.

General Colin Powell was a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.  The son of immigrants, born in New York City, raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, a graduate of the City College of New York, he rose to the highest ranks of the United States military and to advise four Presidents.  He believed in the promise of America because he lived it.  And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.  He embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat.  He led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong.  He repeatedly broke racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow, and was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership.  Colin Powell was a good man who I was proud to call my friend, and he will be remembered in history as one of our great Americans.

As a mark of respect for General Powell and his life of service to our Nation, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on October 22, 2021.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.


Montana Also Has a Half-Staff Proclamation This Week

Some states have issued their own proclamations this week to remember those who have died. This week, Montana has a proclamation.

In Montana from October 20 through October 22, U.S. and state flags are to fly at half-staff at all public facilities in memory of Blackfeet Tribal Chief Earl Old Person. You can read Governor Greg Gianforte’s proclamation here.

Gianforte said in a tweet: “After coordinating with the family of Blackfeet Tribal Chief Earl Old Person and the Blackfeet Nation, I will order all flags flown in the state of Montana to fly at half-staff from Wednesday to Friday. I ask all Montanans to join me in honoring Chief Old Person’s legacy.” 


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 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 dies.

If you’re wondering about the terms half-mast versus half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on the ground or a building, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s blog The Sextant. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast, according to The Sextant. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.

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