A police officer killed in the line of duty ... a soldier killed by an IED ... a lifelong civil-rights advocate ... a successful football coach. Do any one of these not belong?
After Penn State legend Joe Paterno died last month, Gov. Tom Corbett raised some eyebrows by calling for state flags to be lowered to half-staff. The state code allows governors to proclaim half-staff displays "in a manner [the governor] deems appropriate." But while attorney general, Corbett headed up an investigation into alleged child molestation by one of Paterno's former coaches, Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was forced out of Penn State amid allegations he could have done more to stop the alleged abuse.
Whether you feel Paterno deserves this honor in death may depend on how your opinion of him changed near the end of his life. But like his predecessor, Ed Rendell, Corbett has largely reserved the half-staff honor for servicepeople, public servants and state politicians. A partial list of dates on which flags were lowered follows:
Nov. 4, 2009 In honor of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Chad L. Michael, who was killed "as a result of injuries he sustained from a helicopter crash while on assignment in Afghanistan."
Nov. 6, 2009 "In honor of the soldiers who were killed and injured during a Nov. 5 shooting at Fort Hood Army base in Texas."
Dec. 7, 2009 In honor of Penn Hills Police Officer Michael Crawshaw, "who was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 6. ... Crawshaw, 32, of Verona, died as a result of being shot in his police vehicle while awaiting backup to respond to a 911 call."
Jan. 13, 2010 In honor of Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Paul G. Richey, who "was struck and killed by a shot fired from a residence in Cranberry Township, Venango County" while "respond[ing to] a reported domestic incident and was struck by the bullet after exiting his vehicle."
April 28, 2010 In honor of Dorothy Height, "a matriarch of the American civil rights movement" whose "crusade for racial justice and gender equality spanned more than 60 years."
June 9, 2010 In honor of Staff Sgt. Richard James Tieman, who "was killed May 18 while serving on active duty in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was serving his third tour of duty in the war zone."
Oct. 1, 2010 In observance of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service.
Nov. 9, 2010 In honor of Rep. Robert C. Donatucci, a Philadelphia-area state rep who "served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1980."
Nov. 12, 2010 In honor of Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove, of Fairfield, Adams County, who "was investigating reports of ongoing night-time shooting and possible poaching activity in the area. The last time a Game Commission officer was killed in the line of duty was nearly a century ago."
Dec. 20, 2010 In honor of U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Justin E. Schmalstieg, of Pittsburgh, who "was killed in combat on Dec. 15 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan."
Dec. 27, 2010 In honor of state Sen. Michael O'Pake, "the longest serving member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly"
Jan. 10, 2011 In honor of "the victims of a deadly shooting that occurred Jan. 8, in Tucson, Arizona."
March 6, 2011 In honor of Former House Speaker H. Jack Seltzer who "was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1957 and served 24 years, the last two years as Speaker."
March 15, 2011 In honor of Frank Buckles, "the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I. Buckles, 110, died Feb. 27 at his home in West Virginia."
March 17, 2011 In honor of Former Pennsylvania First Lady Mary Jane Leader, whose husband "served as Pennsylvania governor from 1955 to 1959. They were married 71 years."
June 30, 2011 In honor of Deputy Sheriff Kyle Pagerly, who was "fatally wounded in an exchange of gunfire while serving an arrest warrant in Albany Township on June 29."
Aug. 18, 2011 To honor Fallen Navy SEAL Michael Strange, who "was among 30 SEALS, sailors, soldiers and airmen who died Aug. 6 when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan's Wardak province." (A separate memorial was called for Daniel Zerbe, an Air Force sergeant who was also killed.)
Oct. 13, 2011 In honor of Lower Burrell Patrolman Derek Kotecki, who "was fatally shot last evening while trying to apprehend a fugitive."
Oct. 19, 2011 In honor of Air Force Major Thomas E. Clark, "a pilot [who] was shot down over Vietnam in February 1969. His remains were recently identified, returned to the U.S. and will be interred on Oct. 22."
Oct. 28, 2011 In honor of Thomas Digman Jr. and Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Karaso, who "died in April 1944 when their plane went down during an Allied bombing raid over Germany. Their remains were recently returned to the U.S. for burial at Arlington National Cemetery."
Jan. 26, 2012 To honor "former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday at age 85."