Protocol for Flying the American Flag on Memorial Day

American flag. @tepz_ / Twenty20

The American flag is flown at half-staff anytime the nation is mourning. The proper protocol for flying the American Flag on Memorial Dayslightly differs from other occasions when flags are flown at half-staff.

On Memorial Day, flags are quickly raised to full-staff position and then slowly lowered to half-staff, where they remain from sunrise until noon to honor the dead servicemen and women of this country.

At noon, the flags are raised quickly to full-staff in recognition of living military veterans who served the country. The flags remain at full staff until sunset. Whenever the flag is flown at half-staff, other flags (including state flags) should be removed or flown at half-staff as well.

Protocol for Flags Mounted on Homes

For flags that cannot be lowered, such as those mounted on homes, an acceptable alternative is to attach a black ribbon or streamer to the top of the flag pole, directly beneath the ornament at the end of the pole. The ribbon or streamer should be the same width as a stripe on the flag and the same length as the flag.

If the flag is wall-mounted, attach three black bows along the top edge of the flag—one at each corner and one in the center.

Other Occasions When Flags Fly at Half-Staff

There are many other occasions when flags are flown at half-staff. No one other than the president and state governors can order the flag to be flown at half-staff.

Occasions include:

  • Flags are flown at half-staff at all U.S. federal buildings, grounds, territories and Navy ships for 30 days when the current or a former president dies.
  • They are flown at half-staff for 10 days following the death of the vice president, speaker of the House of Representatives,​ the chief justice or retired chief justice of the Supreme Court.​
  • Flags fly at half-staff until the burial of a former vice president, governor of a state, associate justice of the Supreme Court or the Secretary of a military department.
  • In the Washington, D.C. area, flags are flown at half-staff on the day of and the day following the death of a U.S. senator or representative.
  • The president may order the flag to be flown at half-staff to recognize the death of a great American or non-American. Flags flew at half-staff in 2016 after the death of former first lady Nancy Reagan, in 2013 at the death of Nelson Mandela, in 2005 in recognition of the passing of Pope John Paul II, for King Hussein of Jordan in 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965, among many others.
  • The president may order the flag to be flown at half-staff when a tragic event occurs in the U.S. or elsewhere, including for the victims of the July 2016 attack on police officers in Baton Rouge and for the victims of the August 2016 attack in Nice, France. 
  • In addition to Memorial Day, the flag flies at half-staff on Patriot Day (September 11), Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7) and National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service (Oct 9)