Why are flags half-staff on Friday, April 23? Flags are half-staff today and for several days to come after President Joe Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation in memory of former Vice President Walter Frederick Mondale, who died on April 19. In addition to Biden’s national order, a number of states have their own proclamations in place. Here’s a look at the people who are being honored across the country with lowered flags on Friday and throughout the weekend.
Flags Are at Half-Staff in Memory of Former Vice President Walter Frederick Mondale
Flags are at half-staff in memory of former Vice President Walter Frederick Mondale. They will remain at half-staff until the day of his interment, which has not yet been set. Mondale died at the age of 93 on April 19, The New York Times reported. He was former President Jimmy Carter’s Vice President.
Biden said in his proclamation:
Today, our Nation mourns the loss of one of our Nation’s most dedicated patriots and public servants. Walter Frederick ‘Fritz’ Mondale served the people of Minnesota as their Attorney General from 1960-1964, as a United States Senator from 1964-1976, as Vice President of the United States from 1977-1981, and as the United States Ambassador to Japan from 1993-1996.
As Minnesota’s Attorney General, he drew national attention in a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court that established that indigent criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel.
As a Senator, he was instrumental in the passage of The Fair Housing Act to combat racial discrimination in housing, Title IX to provide more opportunities for women, and numerous laws to protect our environment.
Walter Mondale defined the modern vice presidency, elevating the position into a true partnership with the President. As Vice President, he helped lay the groundwork for the 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the Panama Canal Treaty, and nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviet Union.
As the 1984 Democratic nominee for President, he made history when he became the first Presidential nominee of either party to select a woman as his running mate.
In continuing his service as the United States Ambassador to Japan, he became the voice and face of America to that important ally.
For nearly 60 years he had a remarkable partnership with his wife Joan, a devoted advocate for the arts, who passed away in 2014. We mourned when he lost his daughter Eleanor in 2011 and today our Nation’s sympathies lie with his sons Ted and William and his six grandchildren.
On a wall at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, there is a quote from Walter Mondale. It reads, ‘We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace.’ Walter Mondale did all that and more.
As a mark of respect for Walter Mondale and his life of service to our Nation, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including section 7 of title 4, United States Code, 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, on the day of interment. 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 twentieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.
Carter wrote in a statement: “Today I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, who I consider the best vice president in our country’s history. During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today.”
You can read Biden’s statement on Mondale’s passing here, along with Vice President Kamala Harris’s statement here.
States Are Also Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Others Who Have Died
Some states have their own proclamations to remember those who have died.
I have ordered U.S. and Missouri flags at government buildings statewide be flown at half-staff on Friday, April 23, in honor of @Missouri_NG Major Joshua W. Kolden of Pleasant Hill.
Teresa and I extend our prayers to Major Kolden’s family as they mourn this tragic loss. pic.twitter.com/PaYX9qs0ZJ
— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) April 22, 2021
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson ordered U.S. and state flags be flown at half-staff on Friday, April 23, in honor of Missouri National Guard Major Joshua W. Kolden. Kolden died on April 13 after a traffic crash “while in service to the people of the state of Missouri,” Parson said. Kolden was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Spartan Shield, and Operation Inherent Resolve.
Absolutely heartbreaking to hear about the loss of SPC Abigail Jenks who died on an airborne operation this week.
My thoughts are with her family and her unit as they mourn the loss of their friend and fellow Paratrooper. pic.twitter.com/4Ag5kvlFhR
— SMA Michael Grinston (@16thSMA) April 22, 2021
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered state flags on government buildings to fly at half-staff in memory of Spc. Abigail Jenks. Flags will fly half-staff until the day of her interment. Jenks, 20, died during a Blackhawk helicopter training exercise at Fort Bragg. The accident is under investigation.
Jenks was planning to marry her fiance next year, Times Union reported. She was the oldest of four siblings. Jenks had also dedicated much of her time since was 16 to helping stray dogs and cats find homes.
In Pennsylvania, a flag order has been in place since April 7, 2020. It is in place for an indefinite period of time and includes commonwealth facilities, public grounds, and public buildings. The order will last until the pandemic is over.
Governor Tom Wolf said when issuing the order:
Already we have lost friends, parents, grandparents, and siblings. We have lost first responders. We have lost community members. Each of these Pennsylvanians is irreplaceable. Each deserves to be honored individually for their contributions to our commonwealth, but this cruel disease will not give us a respite to mourn. This virus prevents us from honoring the dead at traditional gatherings. We cannot have funerals, wakes, or sit shiva. I hope this flag lowering provides some solace to the grieving families and friends. And, I hope it serves as a reminder of the reason for the sacrifices Pennsylvanians are making to help their community survive this crisis.
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.
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