Why are flags half-staff this weekend on Saturday, May, and Sunday, May 15? Flags are flying half-staff across the nation in memory of those who died of COVID-19, and on Sunday in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day. In addition, flags are flying half-staff in some states in memory of others who have been lost.
Flags Are Flying Half-Staff in Memory of Those Lost to COVID-19
Through Monday, May 16, 2022, flags across the United States will fly half-staff in memory of those who have died from COVID-19.
President Joe Biden began the Presidential Proclamation on May 12. It reads as follows:
Today, we mark a tragic milestone: one million American lives lost to COVID-19. One million empty chairs around the dinner table. Each an irreplaceable loss. Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a Nation forever changed because of this pandemic. Jill and I pray for each of them.
As a Nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible. In remembrance, let us draw strength from each other as fellow Americans. For while we have been humbled, we never give up. We can and will do this together as the United States of America.
In memory of the one million American lives lost to COVID-19 and their loved ones left behind, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and on 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 May 16, 2022. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period 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 twelfth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.
Sunday, May 15 Is Peace Officers Memorial Day
Flags are also flying half-staff on Sunday for Peace Officers Memorial Day. Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation that flags would fly at half-staff until sunset that day.
Peace Officers Memorial Day was first designated in 1962 to fall on May 15 of every year during Police Week. All governors of states and territories within the U.S. are asked to fly their flags at half-staff today, and Americans are invited to do the same at their homes and businesses.
The proclamation about Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week from Biden reads as follows:
For generations, courageous men and women of our Nation’s law enforcement community have dedicated their lives to protecting us in big cities, small towns, and suburban neighborhoods across America. Each morning, police officers pin on their shield and walk out the door to go to work, hoping they will come home safely. Last year, a record number of law enforcement officers died in the line of duty. On Peace Officers Memorial Day and during Police Week, we express our gratitude for these selfless public servants who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
As we see a rise in gun violence and other violent crimes, it is critical that we fund law enforcement with the resources and training they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. That is why the American Rescue Plan provided $350 billion that cities, States, counties, and tribes can use to hire more police officers and invest in proven strategies like community violence intervention, youth programming, and other supportive services. It is also why my proposed 2023 budget more than doubles funding for effective community policing through the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program. In addition, my budget increases support for the United States Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, so they can apprehend fugitives and fight illegal gun trafficking.
Gun violence not only affects community members, it also targets law enforcement officers. Last month at the White House, surrounded by law enforcment, community leaders, and families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, we announced that the Department of Justice is reining in the proliferation of “ghost guns” — privately-made firearms without serial numbers that are increasingly showing up on our streets and being used to attack law enforcement officers and members of the public.
My Administration is also committed to supporting programs that protect the physical safety of our law enforcement — more bulletproof vests, active shooter trainings, and early warnings of threats targeting officers. We must also do more to protect our officers’ mental health and emotional well-being. Suicide and COVID-19 were among the leading causes of death for law enforcement officers in 2021. Last November, I was proud to sign into law three bills that extend critical peer counseling and mental health resources for officers, expand eligibility and benefits for first responders disabled in the line of duty, and protect Federal law enforcement serving abroad. Our officers swear an oath to protect us, and we owe them the same pledge.
We must not abandon our streets or accept the false choice between public safety and equal justice. The solution is not to defund our police. It is to make our streets more secure through policing that treats everyone with dignity and respect. It is to provide officers with the resources, tools, and training they need to keep our neighborhoods safe.
During Police Week, let us demonstrate our appreciation for the unsung heroes who nobly wear the badge and put their lives at risk to protect people each and every day. Let us honor the brave officers whose bright futures were cut short in the line of duty. Let us come together to help police be the partners and protectors our communities and our Nation need for a safer, more just America.
By a joint resolution approved October 1, 1962, as amended (76 Stat. 676), and by Public Law 103-322, as amended (36 U.S.C. 136-137), the President has been authorized and requested to designate May 15 of each year as “Peace Officers Memorial Day” and the week in which it falls as “Police Week.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 15, 2022, as Peace Officers Memorial Day and May 15 through May 21, 2022, as Police Week. I call upon all Americans to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities and salute our Nation’s brave law enforcement officers and remember their peace officer brothers and sisters who have given their last full measure of devotion in the line of duty. I also call on the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day. I further encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes and businesses on that day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.
States Also Have Half-Staff Proclamations Today
Some states have issued their own proclamations today to remember others who have died.
In Iowa, flags are half staff on May 14 in memory of Navy Seaman 1st Class David F. Tidball, who died on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. His remains were just recently fully identified and he will be buried in his hometown.
In Kentucky, flags are half staff on May 14 in memory of Army Cpl. Donald L. Menken, who died in June 1953 in the Korean War. His remains were just identified in February.
In Wisconsin, flags are half staff on May 14 in honor of Hmong-Lao Veterans Day.
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.