Date: January 31, 2012
Byline: GateHouse News Service
Letter: More information on when to fly flag at half-staff
As former veterans and career fire, law enforcement and military officials, we would like to commend Dave Bakke (Jan. 22, “End flag confusion”) for pointing out that there appears to be some confusion over when it is appropriate to lower the American flag in honor of our fallen services members and first responders.
Bakke noted that some local governments choose not to honor the flag-lowering proclamations that are issued by Gov. Pat Quinn each time a soldier from Illinois pays the ultimate sacrifice in battle, as well when an Illinois police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty.
Like so many in the Illinois veterans community, we find it regrettable that the flag-lowering provision of the Illinois Flag Display Act is not more widely understood and followed. In fact, these lowering orders are authorized by the U.S. Flag Code and required by the state Flag Display Act.
Illinois began the tradition of lowering the flag for each service member killed in action following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when our nation developed a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for those who risk their lives to protect us, at home and abroad.
The Illinois Flag Display Act was amended by the General Assembly to require the governor to order flags lowered for the death of a soldier from Illinois in combat, as well as for police officers and firefighters.
The Flag Display Act — 5 ILCS 465/0.01 — is a relatively short law of about 12 paragraphs. It spells out the government facilities in Illinois that are required to fly our national colors. In addition to state government facilities, this includes public schools, county courthouses, city and village halls and even public parks.
As amended to honor our fallen heroes, the act also requires that, upon the governor’s notice, each of these facilities “shall ensure that the flags described in the notice are displayed at half staff on the day designated for the resident’s funeral and the two days preceding that day.”
These are heroes and they are worthy of our respect. We are saddened anytime we ever have to invoke this section of the act. At the same time, we can take comfort in knowing that the sacrifice of those who serve and protect us is not forgotten.
The state of Illinois has created the Flag Honors website to disseminate the flag-lowering orders: www.illinois.gov/news/flaghonors.cfm. At this site, anyone — whether a private citizen, a business or a governmental entity — can sign up to receive an electronic notification each time the governor orders flags lowered.
We encourage all Illinoisans to elect to receive these flag-lowering alerts and to join us in honoring our fallen troops and first responders, whether or not they are technically obliged to observe the orders.
- Erica J. Borggren, director, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs
- Gen. William L. Enyart, adjutant general, Illinois National Guard
- Hiram Grau, director, Illinois State Police
- Larry Matkaitis, Illinois state fire marshal
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