President Obama finally ordered the U.S. flag to be lowered to half-staff Tuesday, five days after four Marines and a sailor were gunned down at two military facilities in Tennesseein Chattanooga. The White House released the proclamation shortly after Obama announced made the announcement his decision during a speech to the National Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW Convention in Pittsburgh, following days of intense national criticism of White House silence.
"As a grateful nation, we must stand up for them and honor them forever," Obama said in tribute to the fallen service members, yet did not comment on any reason for delaying the proclamation.
"We draw strength from yet another American community that has come together with an unmistakable message to those who would try to do us harm: We do not give in to fear. You cannot divide us. And you will not change our way of life," the proclamation reads.
Obama immediately issued proclamations to lower the flag following similar attacks on the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 and Fort Hood in 2009, as well as after several other recent mass shootings, but the lack of response to the Chattanooga attack left many service members and veterans baffled.
"I was appalled," Marine veteran and former recruiter Richard Linck told Marine Corps Times after he noticed the flag flying high over Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, was not yet at half-staff following the attacks. in nearby Havelock, North Carolina.
"Why? In over 20 years here, I've seen flags at half-staff for celebrities, so why couldn't we do it for these four Marines and the sailor who were murdered? It's disrespectful," Linck said.
A Facebook page titled "Half-Mast Challenge; Teach Obama Respect," was launched on Monday. Followers posted photos of their own flags flying at half-staff. Others took to Twitter to encourage the president to order flags to be flown at half-mast.
Republican Speaker of the House Speaker John Boehner ordered the flag lowered over the U.S. Capitol Tuesday morning, and multiple states have done the same, including Tennessee, North Carolina, Montana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Even presidential contender Donald Trump weighed in on Tuesday, calling for flags to be lowered across his vast real estate holdings.
A presidential proclamation is required to formally lower the flag to half-staff over all military installations and federal facilities throughout the nation and the world. The President is authorized to do so under 4 U.S.C. §7(m) as the highest symbol of national mourning.
Once proclaimed, all U.S. flags are expected to follow suit.
The flag will remain lowered until sunset on July 25.