The American flag will fly on the left, flanked by the Hawaii state flag in the middle, and the state Department of Transportation standard on the right side when facing the three-pole arrangement at Lihue Airport as seen from the front entrance.
Tim Sakahara of the state Department of Transportation Public Affairs Office confirmed the placement Wednesday morning. He said the decision was made following discussions with airport officials, four branches of military service and flag manufacturers.
Confusion over the placement of the flags started when a veteran complained to Lihue Airport manager Craig Davis about the American flag being displayed in the middle with the DOT flag on the flag’s right, and the Hawaii state flag on the left, “as if the middle pole were higher than the two outside poles — which is definitely not the case.”
Davis had the airport grounds crew make the adjustments to appease the veteran’s concern that arrived in the airport’s office in mid-September.
But the adjustment of positioning the U.S. flag to a position of honor, which is to the observers’ left, followed by the Hawaiian flag, then the department flag, raised the ire of other people in the environment of political sensitivity in Hawaii.
“I noticed that the Hawaiian flag is being flown over the USA flag,” an email to The Garden Island stated following receipt of the veteran’s concern at the airport. “Has something happened? In my understanding of U.S. Law, the U.S. flag must be flown above all others, so I’m wondering if Hawaii is declaring independence in some silent form of protest or declaration.”
More flag adjustments were made, including having the American flag in the middle and lowering the other flags to a point below the American flag, but that did not stop the issue, Davis said, after consulting with flag manufacturers and representatives of the four military service branches.
The U.S. flag code from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Guidelines for Display of the Flag states that “in a group of flags displayed from staffs, the U.S. flag should be at the center, and the highest point.”
Sakahara said at Lihue Airport there are three flag poles all of equal height, with the central pole being slightly forward of the other two poles.
According to the U.S. History website that contains the flag code in its entirety, “when the three poles are the same height, the priority is left to right — the U.S. Flag, the state flag, and the city or organizational standard.”
That contention is the same as the veteran’s concern and basis of the state DOT’s decision to have the flags fly from left to right when viewed from the front.
“It’s a matter of interpretation,” Davis said.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.