Memorial Day is just one of many days throughout the year when the American flag is lowered to half-staff. The President of the United States and state governors can also order flags lowered during times of mourning.
In Washington state, flags have flown at half-staff three times so far in 2014 to honor local soldiers who died on active duty. In April, Governor Jay Inslee also ordered to lower the flags for a week in memory of the victims of the tragic Oso landslide.
Countless people perform this job of lowering flags at both private and government buildings. One of them is Patrick Daly, who served 26 years in the Air Force and now works as a property manager with the U.S. General Services Administration. Part of Daly’s job is to ensure the American flag is properly displayed at the GSA federal building in Auburn and at Tacoma’s historic Union Station, which is now a federal courthouse.
Often, other employees at Daly’s buildings carry out the task to lower the flag, but Daly is typically the one to pass on the official order and the reason behind it. Occasionally, Daly also pulls out a ladder to lower the flag himself.
KUOW Reporter Liz Jones talked with Daly about his experience with the flag, and his reflections on this upcoming Memorial Day. Here are a few excerpts below, but be sure to listen to the audio postcard to hear Daly’s personal description of this job.
“As I’m going down, I think about why this flag was being raised. This is my opportunity – that quiet moment – and unfortunately and sadly, it’s these young service members who’ve been killed in action. So I get a chance to think about that on the way down to put the flag up, or at least halfway up.”
“Through my 26 years [with the Air Force], I guess I was blessed in being out of harm’s way. But during Desert Storm/Desert Shield we had a crew that went over and set up and maintained bases. We had some casualties and so that makes you think. They were people that we knew and we worked with. It's tragic."
“What pulls at my heart is always that Washingtonian – a soldier, a sailor, an airman – that has passed away. I think about his family. I say a little prayer. Those are the ones that really get me."
“That brings up another story, which I think is great about my experience. So three years ago we’re pretty thick into overseas campaigns and unfortunately a lot of soldiers were dying. So I, or this crew of people that were doing the flags, we were raising and lowering the flag, I would say, once a week and it was pretty sad. But I’m really happy to say right now, three years later, we are hardly coming out and moving this flag, which is great. Things have died down and I’m happy to see that. It gives me a good feeling.”