Local flags need official OK before being lowered

August 29, 2018

Federal agencies in Fort Wayne waited until after receiving guidance from supervisors elsewhere to fly their American flags at half-staff in tribute to U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Flags at the E. Ross Adair Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment were at full-staff Monday evening and half-staff Tuesday morning. McCain, R-Ariz., died Saturday from brain cancer.

Spokesmen for the VA Medical Center and the 293rd Infantry Regiment said they require direction from superiors before changing the placement of their American flags.

“I do not have discretion as to setting the flag to half-mast,” Lt. Col. Jeremy Gulley, commanding officer of the 293rd, said in an email. He said his unit changed flag position at its Cook Road armory after being notified by the Indiana National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters in Indianapolis.

Tom Blackburn, public affairs officer at VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, said in an email that the medical center “waited for the official proclamation from the White House and approval through the VA channels” to put the flag at the VA Medical Center at half-staff Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for the General Services Administration said the Adair Federal Building positions its flag according to notifications sent by the Department of Homeland Security. 

The U.S. Flag Code states that the president may issue an order that the flag be flown at half-staff after the deaths of “principal figures” of the federal government and governors “as a mark of respect to their memory.”

The White House reportedly flew its American flag at half-staff Saturday evening, raised it to full-staff by Monday morning, then lowered it to half-staff again Monday afternoon after facing public criticism, including from the American Legion. McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war, and President Donald Trump had been longtime adversaries.

Trump issued a proclamation late Monday afternoon instructing that flags be lowered to half-staff at public buildings and grounds until McCain’s interment, which will be Sunday.

Hours before Trump’s proclamation, Gov. Eric Holcomb had directed that American flags be flown at half-staff across Indiana in honor of McCain. Although the flag at the Adair building remained at full-staff Monday, the one across Harrison Street at Lincoln Financial Group was flying at half-staff.

The flag code states a governor may proclaim that the national flag be flown at half-staff after the death of a current or former government official from that governor’s state or territory. But ABC News reported Monday that 11 governors in addition to Holcomb had called for half-staff flags ahead of Trump’s proclamation.


Update hourly