Flags at Half-Staff – Do We Really Care?

Via Think Progress, an article by Army Sgt. Jim Wilt, a public affairs officer at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Wilt writes:

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Following the deaths of 32 Virginia Tech students, the President of the United States ordered that all American flags be flown at half-staff for one week.

In accordance with the president’s order, the U.S. flag at Bagram Airfield was raised to half-staff.

The deaths of the 32 students are a tragedy that was felt throughout the world. Even Afghan President Hamid Karazi gave his condolences to the U.S. on the loss of so many young lives. The president of a country, which has seen more than its fair share of young deaths, tipped his proverbial hat to these young people.

But I find it ironic that the flags were flown at half-staff for the young men and women who were killed at VT yet it is never lowered for the death of a U.S. servicemember.

Is the life of Sgt. Alexander Van Aalten, a member of our very own task force, killed April 20 in Helmand province not valued the same as these 32 students? Surely his death was as violent as the students.

Aalten’s death lacked the shock factor of the Virginia massacre. It is a daily occurrence these days to see X number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan scrolling across the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen. People have come to expect casualty counts in the nightly news; they don’t expect to see 32 students killed.

three dots

Department of Defense directives mandate we honor our fallen leaders from former presidents to the state governors, but there is no provision for the men and women who die preserving our way of life.

three dots

If the flags on our FOBs were lowered for just one day after the death of a servicemember, it would show the people who knew the person that society cared, the American people care.

I think Wilt is right. Sadly, I don’t think society or the American people care. I’m pretty sure the folks responsible for sending them over there, and for cheerleader the decision makers, don’t care.