The American Flag is flown at half staff, or half mast in a nautical setting, on four designated days during the year.
- May 15 - Peace Officers Memorial Day
- May - last Monday - Memorial Day (raised at noon)
- September 11 - Patriot Day
- December 7 - Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
It is also flown at half staff on occasions designated by the President of the United States or by the Governor of a State. ONLY those people may give the order to fly flags at half staff. However, city mayors often declare this, they do not have authority under the Federal Flag Code to do so.
Presidents will order the flag to be flown at half staff on occasions of national mourning (such as the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech), the death of a former President, Vice President, Supreme Court Justice, Associate Justice, member of Congress or national dignitary.
Governors will order the flag to be flown at half staff when the state has a resident in the military or a police officer or fireman killed in the line of duty, or for former Governors or state dignitaries.
Flying flags at half staff is a high honor of respect and remembrance and mourning.
The ceremony of putting the flag at half staff is to raise the flag, briskly, to the top of the flag pole and then to slowly lower it to half staff. To lower the flag, it should be raised back to the top of the pole and then lowered.
When the flag is flown at half staff, other flags around it should be lowered, as well, or removed. No flag is to fly higher than the flag of the United States of America.
Whenever you see a flag at half-staff, you know someone important in service to our country has lost their life.