Good questions

Via ThinkProgress, some thoughts on the flag at half-staff by Sergeant Jim Wilt, a piece titled “Why don?t we honor our fallen servicemembers?”:

Following the deaths of 32 Virginia Tech students, the President of the United States ordered that all American flags be flown at half-staff for one week. ?

But I find it ironic that the flags were flown at half-staff for the young men and women who were killed at VT yet it is never lowered for the death of a U.S. servicemember.

Is the life of Sgt. Alexander Van Aalten, a member of our very own task force, killed April 20 in Helmand province not valued the same as these 32 students? Surely his death was as violent as the students.

Aalten?s death lacked the shock factor of the Virginia massacre. It is a daily occurrence these days to see X number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan scrolling across the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen. People have come to expect casualty counts in the nightly news; they don?t expect to see 32 students killed.

The emphasis there is from Think Progress. I would also highlight the closing words:

The U.S. flag is more than a piece of cloth. It is a symbol, a symbol which represents the people of America. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have died under our flag, preserving its people. When we honor the flag by saluting it, we are honoring what it stands for. We honor freedom, the people it represents and a way of life.

Isn?t it time our flag saluted back when a person makes the ultimate sacrifice? Shouldn?t the flag, which represents our society, tip its hat when someone dies to ensure it will fly another day?

While Sgt. Wilt’s question is about flags on Army bases, which are raised and lowered at the President’s orders, the question holds equally well for the flags flying everywhere.


  1. #1 Ex-drone
    April 23, 2007

    Canada went through this controversy a year ago. We had a long-standing national policy not to lower the flag to half-mast for the death of military personnel in specific incidents. Instead, the flag was lowered annually on Remembrance Day (Nov 11) in reverence to all military personnel who gave their lives on duty. However, since the Korean War, our military losses had become relatively infrequent, and so we strayed from policy, especially for the four Canadian soldiers killed in 2002 in a US friendly-fire bombing incident in Afghanistan.

    Our Conservative government re-asserted the policy and were accused of downplaying our losses in Afghanistan and helping the Bush Administration’s PR effort. I am biased to believe our Conservatives to be sleazy, but to their great good fortune, the Royal Canadian Legion (our veterans’ association) endorsed the decision:

    The Royal Canadian Legion acknowledges the decision by Canada that the national flag of Canada will not be lowered on the death of a CF member. The Legion regrets the recent past selective policy of the federal government whereby the Canadian flag has been lowered nationally to half-mast on federal buildings on the death of some CF personnel but not for others. This application of the government’s flag protocol is discriminatory. If the Canadian flag is to be lowered on federal buildings to recognize the death of one CF member then the federal policy must ensure that the flag is lowered on the death of every CF member whose death is attributable to active duty.

  2. #2 mark
    April 24, 2007

    Just a moment ago, an email arrived advising all State agencies to lower flags to half mast in honor the the VT slain, per the governor’s request. But we have been getting similar messages for the past few months as residents of this state have been reported killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The flag has been flying at half staff more often than full for some time now.

  3. #3 T Thomason
    April 24, 2007

    I can understand Sgt. Wilt’s concern for flag not being lowered for our fallen troops. In his defense, I can understand his feelings and those comments were not made for pubic. If the flags were flown half mast when a fallen soldier passes away in Afghanistan, to me would bring moral lower. However, here in Minnesota, our flags are lowered every time we loose one of loved troops. Plus or Governor attends everyone one of the funerals. God Bless our Troops..

  4. #4 Xavier Onassis
    April 24, 2007

    I’ve awarded you the Thinking Blogger Award.

    “The first choice is easy. Although to call it a no-brainer would be a misnomer. Thoghts From Kansas. I know that the title sounds like a contradition…like Military Intelligence or Compassionate Conservatism. But this guy is like Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould. He can explain things so you can understand them. If this guy doesn’t make you think, then you shouldn’t even try.”

  5. #5 Nightmare
    April 24, 2007

    I think it has to do more with the job. As a volunteer army, they are expected to do their job even if that means dieing. The students were not being paid to die, unlike our military. Which is why I have such a huge problem with people like that twit woman who camps outside Bush’s ranch because her kid died in the war. The politics behind the war shouldn’t matter. you know when you sign up for the army that if the man in charge says you go ..well you go. And if die, you know that going into it. It is the ultimate X game.

  6. #6 Bacterial Girl
    April 25, 2007

    I’d bet a dollar that Nightmare, who thinks that dead soldiers should go unmourned by the country for which they “volunteered” to die, displays a “support the troops” yellow ribbon magnet on his or her car.

  7. #7 Nightmare
    April 25, 2007

    You’d be wrong. I don’t have a support the troops sticker on my car. I didn’t say that the soldiers don’t deserve to be mourned, they do. What I said was that was the difference between the “tragedy” and the “war”.

    Notice how I used unnecessary quotes around important words, just like Bacterial Girl, that means you should pay extra attention to them.

  8. #8 Bacterial Girl
    April 25, 2007

    Ok, so I owe Nightmare a dollar. No correlation is perfect.

    Also, I’m using quotemarks because I am quoting. For instance, Nightmare used “volunteer” to describe soldiers. (“As a volunteer army, they are expected to do their job even if that means dieing [sic].”) Similarly, “support the troops” is the text that is printed on the most popular yellow ribbon bumper magnets.

    To call attention to words, one should put them in bold or perhaps in italics.

    Hope this helps.

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