Old Glory could have seen better respect in times past.

Nearly every day is the USA, it is lowered in mourning for reasons that never applied.

In West Virginia it is frequently lowered by the governor in respect of the death of state politicians to dozens of other situations of grief.

The centuries-old practice can be a visible, public answer to extraordinary loss.

Flag buffs have noted that the honor has been extended more widely over time, including to celebrities and police dogs. And some have questioned whether the country has lowered the bar on the lowering of the flag.

"It can be a very powerful symbol, but it can also be overdone to the point that it loses its significance," said John Hartvigsen, president of the North American Vexillological Association, a flag aficionados' group.

Eight states had orders lowering the U.S. flag in effect over more than 30 days. Massachusetts led all others, keeping the flag at half-staff for over a quarter of the year, including on the Fourth of July.

Flags were lowered for a Missouri state official who was running for governor when he killed himself after a radio ad mocked his appearance, and for an Oklahoma state road worker who died helping to fill a sinkhole. One honoree was a police dog shot in Ohio.

Who gets honored, and when, can be controversial, including in New Jersey for the Grammy-winning Whitney Houston.

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