Flag Lowering Forgotten on Memorial Day
An odd thing was not remembered on Memorial Day.
All over Carthage — and in other places — flags were not lowered to half staff in honor of the fallen.
The flag code of the United States calls for the nation’s flag to be flown at half-staff until noon on that day, then raised again to the top.
But at some municipal and county government buildings around Moore County Monday, the U.S. flag remained at full staff.
“I take full responsibility,” Carthage Town Manager Carol Sparks said, speaking of flags at the William C. Walton Municipal Building, which flew at full staff as usual. “I didn’t know about it, but we had no staff working on Memorial Day except police. I couldn’t have done it myself if I had known, because I have a broken foot.”
That’s why she wasn’t at Saturday's memorial service at the Veterans Memorial in Carthage. Few were, and those taking part in the ceremonies didn’t know about the half-staff rule in the code.
Michael Gast, of American Legion Post 12 in Carthage, attended, as he always does. There were few others.
“I was there at 9. Nobody showed up till 10,” Gast said. “I was there and the district commander of the American Legion. The service was done by Vietnam Veterans Chapter 966 with Chuck Spellman, their new president. There were four or five guys with motorcycles. One guy from the Second World War was there with his wife.”
The Carthage ceremony was simple, but it still did not involve lowering any flags to half staff. Instead of having the service on Memorial Day, it was on the Saturday before when that part of the Flag Code did not apply.
“Chuck and some of his people spoke, and that’s about it,” Gast said. “We didn’t have any dignitaries. Last year, we had about 25 in attendance. It gets less each year.”
Names of 44 residents from Carthage who had fallen in battle since World War II were read aloud, with a single tap of a bell marking each one. Gast said he didn’t know about the flag rule, and he thought most places that didn’t lower their flags may have been closed for the holiday with nobody to lower and later raise their flags.
When it is to be flown at half-staff, the flag is first raised to full staff and then slowly lowered halfway down. At the proper time — as designated by the occasion — it is once more raised to fly at full staff.
One man became more and more incensed as he drove about the county seat seeing flagpole after another flying flags at full staff the morning of Memorial Day.
“In front of the courthouse, (Sheriff’s Office), in front of the county jail/magistrates office, and most disturbingly in front of the County Veterans Memorial … all these flags were at full-staff, Jonathan Poverud wrote in an e-mail to The Pilot. “Carthage town hall, the library, the post office, the Division of Aging and the Carthage Rescue Squad were flying flags at full-staff and not honoring the fallen.”
Poverud said he found only McDonald’s on N.C. 24-27 in Carthage had the flag correctly displayed at half-staff that morning.
“Given that some of these county and city buildings were occupied, I find it contrary to the values that I was raised with that the county leadership has taken a position of indifference to the sacrifice of the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” he said. “Shame on Moore County!”
Speaking for the Sheriff’s Office, Chief Deputy Neil Godfrey said it wouldn’t happen next year.
“It was an oversight, and it’s been corrected,” Godfrey said.
It need not happen again anywhere in Carthage. Next year, Gast says he is certain that members of his Post would be willing to take on that flag duty for town, county or businesses if requested.
“Just give us the location, we’ll do it,” he said. “We put flags out at cemeteries.”
He and other members are busy getting ready for the Post’s annual flag-burning ceremony on June 14, Flag Day.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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