There are certain things as soon as you see them, you know it’s not for a good reason. 

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Seeing an American Flag positioned only halfway up the flagpole lefts you know that someone of significance has passed away, or there’s been a terrible event transpire. 

This week in Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz ordered flags across the state be flown at half-staff in honor of Sgt. Cade Michael Wolfe who died when the aircraft he and four others were flying in crashed into the Mediterranean Sea last Friday during a training exercise. 

Sgt. Wolfe, from Mankato Minnesota served in the United States Army and was a Special Operations Solider.  

The recognition is a somber one filled with honor and respect. But where does the practice come from? 

Most historians point back to 1612 when the Captain of the British Ship “Hearts Ease” died while the ship was enroute to Canada. When the ship returned home the British flag was flying lower than normal.  

The speculation is that flag was lowered down the width of one flag to make room for the invisible death flag which signaled there had been a death aboard the ship.  

According to the website, In the United States, there are stringent rules about when flags are flown in this position. If any U.S. President passes, sitting President or past Commander in Chief, flags are flown at Half-Staff for 30 days.  

If a current Vice-President, Chief Justice or Speaker of the House passes, the American Flag will fly at Half-Staff for 10 days. 

When any other government official passes, flags will be lowered from the day they die until they are interred.  

A sitting United States President has the power to lower flags when other important figures pass or if a catastrophic event takes place. President Barack Obama had flags lowered to honor the passing of Nelson Mandela in 2013 and President George W. Bush did the same after the death of Pope John Paul II.  

While we’re on the topic, when a flag is lowered, you’ll hear people reference the flag’s position is either at “Half-Staff” or “Half-Mast”. According to, there is a difference. Half-Mast is only used when Naval Installations are involved, for all others, the correct term is Half-Staff.  

Flags in Minnesota will continue to be at Half-Staff until sunset on Monday November 20th to honor and remember the sacrifice of Sgt. Cade Michael Wolfe as a gesture of gratitude from his home state. 


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