Why flags are at half staff: October 29, 2013

by beth on October 29, 2013

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Flags in Southborough and across the country are flying at half staff today. The federal order is in honor of the late former Speaker of the House, Tom Foley.

Foley passed away at age of 84 last week. You can read more about his passing and his legacy here.

(photo from Susan Fitzgerald)

1 Veteran of US Army October 29, 2013 at 3:32 PM

I don’t mean to be mean, or disrespectful to the family, as a veteran, I do not believe anyone should give an order for flags to be at half mast unless it is a veteran. The least of which should be flown at half for is a politician or lawyer. Foley was both.

2 Paul Cimino October 29, 2013 at 10:42 PM


Thank you for your service. I am a fellow Army veteran, but respectfully disagree with your first premise here. Any sincere and substantial public service is something that we should honor as often as possible in this country, whether it be military service or otherwise.

That being said, it appears that you disagree that the sum and substance of Mr. Foley’s particular service has earned him this recognition, but I think that is a different question (and one that I certainly am not trying to answer in this comment). Cheers.

Paul Cimino

3 SB Resident October 29, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Not sure why you would feel that way, according to wikipedia, the tradition doesn’t much to do with being a veteran.


4 US citizen. October 30, 2013 at 7:48 AM

I agree with the US veteran.

5 Peter F. Phaneuf October 30, 2013 at 10:57 AM

“There is a great saying, “we all gave some, some gave all”
I believe those who make the decision to put the flag at half staff review this saying.

6 Dick Chase October 31, 2013 at 1:21 AM

Veteran of US Army; I understand that you may not intend to be mean or disrespectful. But you are being mean and disrespectful. There are many ways that all of us serve this great country of ours. Serving in the armed forces is one. serving in the Senate or the House or the Judiciary are others among many. I, as a citizen, was less a fan of Senator Foley and his politics (personally, I despised much of what he stood for). But that is irrelevant. He was one of 100 duly elected Senators of the United States of America. 1 out of 100 out of 250,000,000 or so at the time. The reason why someone chose to join the military or run for the Senate or the House of Representatives is not more important than the fact they, out of hundreds or millions, served. Did you serve only to defend those in government that you agreed with? I don’t dare to believe so. Our flag doesn’t just represent those that served in our armed forces. It represents all of us. The flag of the United States of America has 50 stars representing the current 50 states and 13 stripes representing the 13 original colonies. The flag doesn’t represent a political party, it also, very explicitly in origin and design, doesn’t represent an armed force. It represents a country – a people. If someone who served this country – elected, drafted or volunteered – passes, we should all be proud to lower the flag to thank them for their service.

7 Dick Chase October 31, 2013 at 2:09 AM

Ugh, never post after the Red Sox win the World Series. Of course it’s Speaker, not Senator Foley, and 1 of 435 US Representatives, not Senators.

8 Al Hamilton October 31, 2013 at 9:27 AM


Thank you for expressing my sentiments exactly. The flag belongs to all of us.

There is in fact a specific protocol for flying the flag at half staff on the death of a member of congress. In addition, a private private party can, properly, fly the flag at half staff as a sign of private mourning.

“The flag is displayed at half staff as a sign of respect or mourning. Nationwide, this action is proclaimed by the president; state-wide or territory-wide, the proclamation is made by the governor. In addition, there is no prohibition against municipal governments, private businesses or citizens flying the flag at half staff as a local sign of respect and mourning.”


9 Dean Dairy October 31, 2013 at 11:04 AM

I disagree with the premise that politicians, simply by virtue of holding elective office, have in any way “served” of the people. If somebody dies in the line of duty, because of upholding that duty, it would be a sacrifice of service. But Foley died of natural causes, a wealthy man because of his work in government. Call this what it is. Government elites using a “federal order” to memorialize other government elites. If they are great men and women, people will voluntarily celebrate their lives and work, which is all any of us can expect — those of us who didn’t garner all the trappings of power and graft that politicians have to spend using the taxpayer’s dime.

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