Bud Kennedy

Think the flag is at half-staff a lot? Try 64 days in 2015

Flags at half-staff Monday around the Washington Monument. President Barack Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the Orlando nightclub shootings.
Flags at half-staff Monday around the Washington Monument. President Barack Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the Orlando nightclub shootings. AP

On the 100th anniversary of Flag Day, our American flags sank along with our hearts.

Flags on federal and state buildings were raised and then slowly lowered to half-staff Tuesday, and for once President Barack Obama, Gov. Greg Abbott and local officials agreed.

A flag that stands for freedom and liberty was lowered in heartache for victims of the nightclub attack in Orlando, Fla.

And if it seems like our flags have been at half-staff a lot lately — they have.

The Orlando attack is the fifth terrorist incident in 12 months.

Remember when those ragtag “Operation Hero Guard” armed volunteers were guarding U.S. Army recruiting offices after a Chattanooga, Tenn., attack? That was less than a year ago.

We can’t lower it for every event like this.

Cole County, Mo., Commissioner Kris Scheperle. (He changed his mind.)

When mourning ends Thursday for those killed in Florida, our national flag will have flown at half-staff 25 days in the last year just for the terror victims in Chattanooga; Paris; San Bernardino, Calif.; Brussels; and Orlando.

Add in the mourning for former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and for former first lady Nancy Reagan, and flags have flown at half-staff 38 days in recent months.

They were lowered 64 days — more than two months — in 2015, according to a spokesman in Abbott’s office.

Flag owners have to check a website or email daily to know how high to hoist the Stars and Stripes and the Lone Star.

“There is so much confusion out there,” said Matt Knowland of Minnesota-based American Flagpole and Flag, which operates one of several websites or social media pages with names such as “HalfStaff.”

Ultimately, the owner of a flag can legally decide whether to lower it. But U.S. and Texas flag codes say to comply with proclamations.

First of all, it’s a staff, not a mast, although the original flags lowered in mourning were flown at half-mast on old-time sailing ships after an officer’s death.

Technically, federal proclamations govern those buildings, and state orders govern those agencies and schools.

If you don’t go along, we call that American free speech. But expect someone to ask why.

That’s what happened this week in Jefferson City, Mo., when Cole County commissioners balked at first over dipping the flags for nightclub victims.

Lowering them too often “takes away from the honor,” Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher said. Fellow Commissioner Kris Scheperle changed his mind and cast the swing vote to lower the flags after first saying, “We can’t lower it for every event like this.”

Locally, the Plano-based Hope Center office complex had to apologize Tuesday when prescheduled posts for Flag Day showed the U.S., Texas and a Christian flag at full staff, proclaiming “One Nation Under God — #Freedom.”

Chief Executive Stan Keith quickly said the center has lowered its flags since Monday and mistakenly didn’t update the photo. On social media, he had shared a Southern Baptist commentary calling for Christians to “stand in unity” with those suffering.

Even Texas’ most conservative counties shared the sorrow for lives lost.

We know that the grief might just as easily be for our families and that the attack definitely targets our freedom.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.