When most people think about Memorial Day and the three-day weekend that surrounds it, they are reminded of barbecues, a day at the beach, or the day that the swim club opens for business. But anyone who has served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines is aware of a much deeper meaning. Memorial Day is more than just a day to fly the American Flag from your front porch while firing up the grill in the backyard. It is a day of remembrance for our fallen soldiers, and many public ceremonies are held across the country, including the National Memorial Day remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery.
According to the U.S. Flag Code, flying the flag on Memorial Day is not to be taken lightly. The USA flag is to be flown at “half-staff” from sunrise until noon. This is the position on a flagpole between the top and bottom, and is often referred to as “half-mast”. The symbolic meaning of this is to imply that there is something missing above the flag. Some scholars interpret this space to be the “invisible flag of death.” However, on Memorial Day the flag is only flown at half-staff until noon. After this time, the flag is to be raised back to the top, which may symbolize our nation’s ability to overcome and persevere, even in times of great loss.
There are several other occasions when the American flag is symbolically flown at half-staff. These include Peace Officers Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day. It is also quite common to see the flag at half-staff on September 11th (Patriot Day) and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7th. The practice extends far back into early American history, with the first recorded incident being in the year 1612, but no one is exactly sure how it got started.