In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14th in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.
This year, Flag Day falls on Tuesday during the period of national mourning for the victims of the Orlando, Fla., massacre, which raises questions about how to observe both if you have a flag that can’t be lowered to half-staff.
President Barack Obama has ordered that flags fly at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings, military posts, naval stations and vessels, U.S. embassies and consular offices in the U.S. and abroad until June 16 “as a mark of respect for the victims of the act of hatred and terror perpetrated,” just as he did after shootings in San Bernardino and after the recent deaths of former first lady Nancy Reagan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
But there are instances when a flag cannot be lowered to half-staff — like outside a home where the pole, with an affixed flag, sits in a bracket at a 45-degree angle.
In those cases, displaying the flag normally is not considered disrespectful to those in mourning, flag experts said.
It is also an accepted tradition to attach a black ribbon or streamer to the top of the flagpole as a sign of mourning if a flag can’t fly at half-staff — though that is not spelled out in the U.S. flag code, experts say.
Flying the flag still would honor those victims of the tragedy, said John Hartvigsen, president of the North American Vexillological Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of flags, and flag historian for the Colonial Flag Foundation in Sandy, Utah.
“It was not just an attack on the gay community and people in Florida, it was an attack on every American,” he said of the shooting carried out by Omar Mateen, who went on a rampage at a gay nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring dozens more.
Flag Day commemorates the day the flag was adopted in 1777. While it is meant to recognize the history and importance of the flag, the holiday takes on greater meaning during times like this, offering a moment of reflection, said Tim Lankford, assistant director for education and scholarships at the American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis.
“We would hope, or I would hope, the flag symbolizes everything America stands for and its Constitution,” Lankford said. “The flag has a much deeper meaning than simply a banner we run up on schools or federal buildings. It’s a symbol of the freedoms fought for and guaranteed in our founding documents, from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the amendments that came down (over) the years, and the system of freedoms we enjoy and the way we enjoy them.”
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