The Controversy Over Lowering the Flag After the Tragic Deaths in Chattanooga

The senseless deaths of 5 servicemen at the hands of an apparent terrorist in Chattanooga, Tennessee has started a lot of controversy here in the USA over the President’s decision not to order the lowering of the flag to half-staff immediately after the shootings in honor of the victims.  Four days after the shooting and under intense political pressure and scrutiny, President Obama finally ordered the flags at all federal buildings and overseas embassies to be flown at half-staff.

Was it the right thing to do? I can see arguments from both sides, and I almost hesitate to write on the subject because it brings out so many emotions in people when we lose our young armed services personnel in senseless acts like this. While lowering the flag is controversial in this case, it should by no means outweigh the fact that we as a country need to take a serious look at the war on terror and what we are doing right to stop these types of things, as well as what we need to do much better. I will let that go for now and we can pick that subject up at another time.

On a historical note, the term “half-mast” comes from when the flag on a ship was lowered to signal distress, show respect or to honor someone who died on the ship. The reason the flag is lowered to half-mast in the case of a death is because it is supposed to make room for an invisible death flag. The correct term for lowering the flag on buildings is actually called half-staff.

US FlagLet’s go over what the official policy has long been as far as lowering the flag to half-staff in the USA. There are no set rules on lowering the flag and official policy states that it can be done by proclamation anytime the president deems it necessary. It has most traditionally been done after a President or former President has died, on remembrance days such as Memorial Day and 9/11 and for certain other public officials such as the death of a sitting vice-president, the speaker of the house or a Supreme Court justice.

Here is why I think it was wrong to not lower the flag after the Tennessee shootings. In the past, the flag has been lowered to half-staff after such incidents as the shootings that occurred at Fort Hood, the 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. What makes this shooting any different from any of those? If you are using these shootings as a precedent, then the flag should have immediately been lowered to half-staff.

The problem lies in that these were military service members that were killed. We have Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen dying in engagements all over the world on a regular basis. I think President Obama felt that if he lowered the flag to half-staff only for these service members, it would somehow dishonor the other soldiers that had died in service for their country too. I get it and there are no easy choices in times like this, and I am glad I am not the one to have to make those decisions.

In the end, I am happy the President lowered the flag in honor of these brave men that were tragically taken from us in Chattanooga and I hope we continue to honor in other ways the ultimate sacrifice that so many of our military personnel continue to pay around the world to protect our freedom.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Craig Smith

Craig has been writing for several years but just recently made freelance writing a full time profession after leaving behind 26 years working in the swimming pool construction industry. He served four years in the US Air Force as an Imagery Interpreter Specialist in Okinawa, Japan and at SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. As a staunch supporter of law enforcement personnel, emergency medical technicians, firemen, search and rescue personnel and those who serve in the military, Craig is proud to contribute to the US Patriot blog on their behalf.
Craig Smith
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