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Soldier: Why half-staff for Va. Tech, not troops?


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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18274805/

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Army sergeant complained in a rare opinion article that the U.S. flag flew at half-staff last week at the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan for those killed at Virginia Tech but the same honor is not given to fallen U.S. troops here and in Iraq.

In the article issued Monday by the public affairs office at Bagram military base north of Kabul, Sgt. Jim Wilt lamented that his comrades’ deaths have become a mere blip on the TV screen, lacking the “shock factor” to be honored by the Stars and Stripes as the deaths at Virginia Tech were.

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So you want to continually fly the flag at half-staff? Wouldn't that make it meaningless?

its a hard one.

We saw scenes from what happened at VP, still photos and a lot of awful pictures. But, we don't see the coffins coming back from Iraq.

So, is there really a valid solution?

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There's that simple matter of a volunteer army and they knew these were the associated risks. Going to college is not supposed to involve the risk of getting shot, war is. Have we ever in the past kept flags flying at half mast throughout an entire war? Is there precedent for that? Sounds like reasonable frustration on the part of the Sgt with a difficult situation compounded by the fact that, yes, this war hasn't had the impact and visibility "back home" of previous ones.

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I can see the soldiers point, yet I feel like since the Armed Forces is voluntary, and we are in a time of conflict, deaths should be expected. While I don't feel that it should be just a blip on the TV news, I don't feel that it should be a national tragedy when it happens. Fact of the matter is that before last monday, only the very paranoid, ever thought of what would happen if someone came into their classroom with a gun and started shooting. Now most college kids have thought of it. I find it hard to imagine a soldier never thinking about what would happen if they were in a firestorm in a hostile country, before they joined the military.

That being said, I have the utmost respect for any soldier who risks his life for his country.

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So you want to continually fly the flag at half-staff? Wouldn't that make it meaningless?

No I wouldn't have flown it at half staff to begin with for the VT massacre. And no not because I'm heartless but because it's not wirtten in the code to do so.

FLYING THE FLAG AT HALF-STAFF: The pertinent section of the Flag Code says, "by order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possesion, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law. In the event of the death a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the Governor of that state, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff." The code also includes other related details including the specific length of time during which the flag should be displayed at half-staff, in the event of the death of a "principal figure"(e.g., 30 days for the death of a sitting or former President, 10 days for the death of a sitting Vice-President,etc.).

http://www.usflag.org/nffhalfstaff.html

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A few more quotes from the article to flesh out the facts and elaborate on this Sgt.'s opinion:

"NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said that the flags of all its troop-contributing nations are flown at half-staff for about 72 hours after the service member’s death “as a mark of respect when there is an ISAF fatality.”

....

Wilt suggested that flags should fly at half-staff on the base where the fallen service member was working and in the states where they hail from. He said some states do this, but not all of them.

.....

“If the flags on our (operating bases) were lowered for just one day after the death of a service member, it would show the people who knew the person that society cared, the American people care.”

I think it's a valid suggestion. Perhaps not the right course of action -- I think we'd go half-mast flag crazy -- but the code probably does need to be re-looked at. Should the flag be flown at half-mast for Presidentially decreed national tragedies? It did not sound like a provision for this occasion was made in the code for such occurrences. It probably needs to be re-visited.

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