Kentucky changes flag policy for fallen soldiers again

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WHAS11.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:39 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 1:55 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky's adjutant general says the state is changing its flag policy for fallen soldiers-again.

The state's new policy calls for lowering flags to half-staff for all personnel based in Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini said. That includes soldiers from other states who are stationed at a military base in Kentucky such as Fort Campbell or Fort Knox, Tonini said.

"I'm very confident that this will end any controversy," Tonini said of the new policy. "I'm convinced that everyone will embrace the policy."

Kentucky had tightened its policy in June to lower the flag only for soldiers who were state residents, and only on the day of their funeral. Officials in Gov. Steve Beshear's administration said the change was made because flags were lowered so often it was hard to know who was being honored.

Tonini said the change in June, first reported by The Associated Press last week, was intended to highlight the honor being paid to Kentucky residents killed in action.

Tonini had said that Kentucky's previous policy created confusion because flags were lowered so often. Between April 1 and July 2, the state lowered flags for 26 soldiers, only four from Kentucky. And flags sometimes stayed down for more than a week for each fallen soldier.

But veterans argued that all fallen soldiers should be recognized.

"I think there was a lot of perception that in fact it was a degradation instead of an enhancement," Tonini said. "It is an inclusive policy now."

Kentucky's new policy, which still calls for lowering the flag only for the soldier's burial day, takes effect immediately.

Tonini said last week that an internal review found Kentucky's old policy was among the nation's broadest. Michigan was the only other state to lower flags for such a long time, while many states had no protocol at all.

State Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican who served in Afghanistan as a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard, said he encouraged Beshear last week to rethink the policy.

"I do believe that the administration was attempting to correct what they saw as too much looseness in the policy," Moore said. " They probably overstepped and have very quickly back-stepped to correct that."

Carlos Pugh, state commander for Kentucky's chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he was pleased the policy had been changed again to be more inclusive. Pugh said he and other veterans felt any soldier sent from a Kentucky military base who's killed in action should be honored by the state.

"I thank the governor for changing it back," Pugh said.

Sen. Joey Pendleton, a Democrat whose district includes Fort Campbell, said he had received numerous e-mails and phone calls complaining about the tighter policy. Pendleton said he was pleased by the latest change.

"The men and women who are stationed at our military compounds may not be official residents of Kentucky, but many have adopted Kentucky as their home," Pendleton said. "Flying our flags at half staff is a way to pay them the respect they deserve."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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