Sunday, January 6, 2008

True Respect for the Flag

Until the war began, it was easy for me to keep my illusion that the majority of the American people understood and respected the flag. What it meant, what it stood for. My family respected it, and raised me to do the same. My friends and their parents also knew what the flag meant: who had died for it, and why it was important. It was never 'just an object'. I believed firmly that the rest of America felt the same way that I did about it.

Then the war began, and I started seeing flags everywhere. Flags on bikinis. Flags at Walmarts and gas stations. People putting tiny plastic flags on their cars.

Some may not know how closely a soldier is tied to the flag. I raised my right hand and swore my oath with the flag standing by-in fact, no oath of enlistment or reenlistment is legal and valid unless there is a flag standing by, that symbol of honor to ensure that America is watching over the pledge you make to it. Most days, I wake up early in the morning, and the first thing I see before the dawn breaks is the flag, proud against the dim light, raising as it always will when there are soldiers to lift it. The first thing I do to start most days is to execute a brisk salute. As old as I get, I do not think I will ever forget how to do that.

A lot of people have been talking about seeing upside-down American flags in protests against the Iraq War. Some of them think it's disrespectful. Often it's the same people with the American Flag undershirts and the American flag printed on their beer steins. The same people who raise those flags to try to pretend to patriotism, to attract business by appealing to your love of country. I've tolerated it for a while, getting angrier and angrier. But at last, I've decided: I can't take it any longer silent. I need to speak out, and hope someone is listening.

You see, a lot of people don't realize this, but there's something more than just personal opinion dictating how to treat the flag. There's actual law about it. The United States Flag Code, Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1. And it dictates what can and cannot be done to show respect.

Flying the flag with the union down? (Upside down) May not be done- except as a signal of dire distress. Dire distress is certainly a good word for how many people feel about this war- a war being waged against our honor and for purposes not related to defense of our nation. It is not disrespectful-it is precisely how the flag code lays out that it should be displayed.

Now let's talk about those so-called "patriots".
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel (8d, US Flag Code) That's right, folks. Every time one of you makes another god awful T-shirt with a flag on it saying "Support the troops", or "Freedom Isn't Free", or "Don't Cut And Run", or any of the other garbage you happen to be espousing at the time, you are disrespecting my flag . Every time one of you wears another ball cap with an American flag on it, you are disrespecting my flag and breaking the code .

Let's look at some more US Code on this. The only people who are authorized to wear the flag as part of their clothing, and the only way they may do it, is expressed as follows:
a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel,
firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.

A flag patch. PATCH.

Now all you people displaying flags? Displaying flags everywhere and anywhere, getting shredded and tattered and torn, displaying them day and night, in all weather? You are killing those flags. I would say murdering, except I hope that it's not intentional. Strong language, you say? It's just a flag? Let's go back to the flag code. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.

You do not display it tattered and torn, or on your pro-war signs so that you can seem patriotic. You do not display it at night without lighting. You do not display it in hail or snow unless it is a storm flag, otherwise referred to as an "all-weather" flag. You do not put it on your bumper sticker with some words about "staying the course". You do NOT let it touch the ground.

I know that you people probably won't listen to me. You've got a bad habit of only listening to the ideas you already agree with. But next time, before you attempt to say that a former service member is somehow dishonoring the flag or disrespecting the flag by flying it upside down, try to remember that no one who really loves their country would ever disrespect it-and read the Flag Code yourself. Stop using the flag to make yourselves seem patriotic. Burn those ballcaps and T-shirts so the flag can rest in peace. Take down those wind-torn flags you've been displaying in the dark-carry them gently, they have seen hard service-and cut the stars and the stripes apart. Do what's right-and know your own country's history, traditions, and rules. Not just what some pundit told you to think-think for YOURSELVES.


Anonymous said...

Flying the flag with the union down? (Upside down) May not be done- except as a signal of dire distress. Dire distress is certainly a good word for how many people feel about this war- a war being waged against our honor and for purposes not related to defense of our nation. It is not disrespectful-it is precisely how the flag code lays out that it should be displayed.

What utter tripe. As you well know, the use of an inverted flag has its roots in maritime history and has been co-opted by the left as a "thumb-in-your-eye" sign of disrespect for traditional American values and those who support them.

Too clever by half sarge and your apologetics ring as hollow as your ideology is evident.

ConcreteBob said...

As long as the IVAW aligns itself with the most extreme elements of marxism and socialism in this country, everything they do or say is suspect.
You are known by the company you keep. Holding your so-called Winter Soldier tribunal in conjunction with the International Conference on Organized Resistance implies that you agree with their agenda, which is the end of democracy and the establishment of a socialist state.
Why do you allow yourself to be used by these people? They don't care about you.
Maybe you should do some research and find out who's really backing the IVAW/VFP/VVAW.

Army Sergeant said...

Anonymous: You may believe that's the case, but the vets that I know have only flown the flag upside down with the utmost respect. I think you may be making assumptions which aren't warranted.

Concrete Bob: I'm not sure what you're talking about. As far as I'm aware, Winter Soldier is being held completely separately from anything else-IVAW is even asking that the anti-war people steer clear, so that it can be heard without being used by everyone to promote their own separate agenda. If you have other information, I'd certainly be ready to hear it.

ConcreteBob said...

I never thanked you for your service, and for that I apologize.
Thank You for your service to our country.
As to my comment regarding affiliations, IVAW is holding this event in the same venue and the same time as the ICOR event. My information says IVAW will be at American Univeristy from the 13th to the 16th of March. That coincides with the ICOR event also being held at AU.
The IVAW identifies its "most important partner" as Veterans for Peace. Moreover, IVAW is a steering committee member of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition headed by Leslie Cagan, a longtime committed socialist who aligns her politics with those of Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba. UFPJ is a part of the socialist movement in this country and is aligned with ANSWER, WorldCantWait, Revolutinary Communist Party, Workers World Party, and the Amercian Communist Party.
IVAW would have more credibility if they were to disassociate themselves from these anti-American groups, IMHO.
Let me ask you something. If you were to witness a person burning an American flag on the streets of DC in broad daylight, what would your reaction be?
Would you want your group in any way connected to the group that person was a member of?
That happened on 29 September 2007 in downtown Washington DC. The group was WorldCantWait, and they are a part of the groups IVAW has aligned themselves with.
Now, I support the right to freely express opinions, the right to assemble, the right to protest. (I'd better support it, since I do it all the time), but I draw the line at flag burning. I draw the line at using the symbol of our Nation as a tool for left-wing propaganda, and I especially hate it when the left uses our brave military to further their agenda.
Jesse Macbeth was a poser. He came to the IVAW with a story and IVAW bought the story hook, line, and sinker, with no vetting, no confirmation. Jesse Macbeth was a phony. The Beauchamp incident was disproved. Do you see why we're not so quick to believe these days? Do you understand that anything that is said by the extreme left in this country is met with disdain and doubt? Karl Marx says it's OK to lie to further the socialist agenda. The Koran tells Muslims its OK to lie to further jihad. We are facing an evil that will kill without compunction or remorse, and the extreme left in this country wants to negotiate. I'm sorry, Sir, but I can't stand by and wait for the terrorists to do another 9-11. I can't stand by and watch as people who should know better do things that embolden and enable those terrorists. You know as well as I do that they would nuke us in a New York minute if they could.
Now, all that being said, you can argie til the sun turns blue that Iraq was not involved in 9-11. I don't know. I go by empirical data and common sense. I do know that Hussein was pissed at the US for Desert Storm. I know that a lot of Iraqis were allowed into this country after Desert Storm. I know they lived in and around Oklahoma. I have reason to believe that Hussein did indeed have WMD's in Tikrit and they are still there. How I came by this information I am not at liberty to discuss, but I have no reason to doubt the source, because it is not military and has no agenda.
Damn, sorry Sarge, didn't mean to hijack your post, I get carried away sometimes.
I support ALL military personnel, regardless of beliefs. We will disagree on some things, but know I have the utmost respect for anyone who volunteers to sere this country. I just wish you guys could see things the way I do.

Army Sergeant said...

Concrete Bob:

Most important stuff first. Don't call me sir, I work for a living! :)

The thing about the IVAW event is that it's being held when it is due to being the fifth anniversary of the war. It's hardly the only group to want to do something at that time for that reason. There are probably going to be a lot of crazy groups doing things at similar times. I don't believe Winter Soldier will be held at AU, so according to my information, it will simply be in the same city-which is a far cry from 'the same venue'.

I know that IVAW considers Veterans for Peace very important, as well as the other veterans groups. I'll probably post at some point about why veterans feel most comfortable with other veterans, but at any rate, I haven't heard anything negative about that group. They seem fairly committed-I don't agree with them all the time, but nobody agrees with all of their allies.

I think there are definitely a lot of kooks in the anti-war movement. There are a lot of kooks in the pro-war movement, too. To be honest, there are just a lot of kooks out there. I don't believe in socialism or communism or any of that. I saw how well voluntary socialized stuff like healthcare works for the military-and that's not at all. And we're an all-volunteer force. It's a nice idea if everyone in the world were full of rainbows. Sadly, they're not.

If I were to witness someone burning an American flag? Well, my personal response would be to take off my IVAW T-shirt or military uniform if I was wearing either one of those, and then go have a chat with the fellow. To properly explain why I don't think that's a good idea, if you read me.

If that happened from the WorldCan'tWait (and I don't doubt it did, I just wasn't aware of it) I would hope that it was an extremist idiot and not representative.

I am something of a mix when it comes to the flag. I don't think that it should be illegal to bring the flag to protests, but I occasionally get ticked off at how much it's done. On both sides of the effort. The point of the American flag isn't to bring as many of them as you possibly can to a protest to show how much you love it. I hate the flag being used for any and all propaganda, whatever 'wing' it comes from.

As for Jesse Macbeth? You're absolutely right. IVAW hadn't even thought about the fact that anyone would lie about their service. It's too reprehensible. It taught us a big lesson, unfortunately. That's why IVAW requires your DD214 or active duty military records to allow membership these days.

I understand why anything said by extremists is met with disdain, but what I'm not sure of is why so many policies and ideas that seem like they should be fairly mainstream to me come up like radical thoughts. Somehow it's radical to say, "Hey, maybe we should question our government, as an educated citizenry". Or radical to say, "Vets should have full healthcare upon their return". Or "Vets who need it should get PTSD treatment, and not be shoved off with 'borderline personality disorder'"

Karl Marx and the Koran may tell their people it's okay to lie. But I don't believe it's okay to lie-I'm a soldier, whose profession is truth. But I'm not going to refrain from doing what I feel is right for the country I love simply because some people think it emboldens the terrorists.

Last election, I actually heard it said by some that anyone who voted Democrat or campaigned against Bush was emboldening the terrorists. No matter what your politics, that's scary talk right there. And it's the same scary talk I see in many cases here.

I don't think Iraq was involved in 9-11. I think they did a lot of other shady things, and may have had WMDs-though not nukes. I don't think they were planning to attack the US. If anything, they would have attacked Israel. But I don't think they needed to be warred against, especially not in the manner that they were. I think the Saudis had more to do with 9-11 than Iraq, and we let them out of the country right away. What was that about?

Don't worry about the hijack, it's cool. I know what it's like to run on about stuff you care about. And if you support all military, regardless of beliefs, then you support the most important belief of all: that we're all Americans, and someday, we'll all be able to sit down over a beer and talk about how much we love the things that really matter.

Skye said...


Anonymous said...

I don't believe in socialism or communism or any of that.

Then why do you align yourself with an organization that Howard Zinn and Joe Bangert are more than delighted to raise funds for?


We do.

Teleqsal said...

ConcreteBob: I'd like to say that your post was extremely articulate and to the point. You used facts, clearly unusual to the anti-war, VVAW wannabe's called IVAW.
Thank you and the Gathering Of Eagles for your true patriotism. I went through the 60's with the slobbering VVAW and Hanoi John. Let's make sure their babbling imitation's get deep sixed.
Army Sergeant: The Flag Code is NOT law. FYI

Army Sergeant said...


What would you call it? I had been informed it was law, but not enforceable law as it did not carry penalties for breaking it.

Jenni said...

i read your post and while this is embarrassing to admit, but i never knew wearing the flag on one's clothes was actually would think this would be taught in social studies or history, but it wasn't, at least in my school.

anyway, interesting blog. i'll keep reading. =)

Anonymous said...

Letter to editor of Santa Barbara News Press, 2007

Flag Burning

If Congress is going to spend so much time on flag burning that happens so rarely, they should include some issues that happen more often.

No American flag will be flown in public that is not made in America.
No flag will be used in violation of the American Flag Code. (This includes the Stars and Bars on beach towels, paper goods, Mack Trucks, hippie vans, clothes, coffee cups, etc.)
Politicians will not use the American Flag to trumpet their own loyalty.
The flag will not be used in advertising of any kind.

Then Old Glory might get a little more respect.

Ron Dexter, Korean War Vet

Army Sergeant said...

Awesome! Great letter. It'd be nice, wouldn't it?

And I think all American flags should be made in America, same with all military uniforms. I'll never forget seeing "Made in China" stamped on my beret.

streetsweeper95B said...

AS - I've been cruising your blog as you might expect reading. Of the many posts I've read, this ONE paragraph has got me rolling with laughter:

"And I think all American flags should be made in America, same with all military uniforms. I'll never forget seeing "Made in China" stamped on my beret."

Specifically, the "Made in China" tag on your beret! Seems kind of familiar to me! Standard issue OD ballcaps back when had "Made in Tawain" tag if memory is correct.

At at times, seeing that tag made me wonder where my flackjacket was made too, lol! Be that as it may, I set some of my monthly pay aside a little at a time....went to civilian LE supply store & bought myself one of those very pricey Second Chance brand vests.

You ought to try standing guard mount after yer Top finds out you're wearing what he deems to be "unauthorized" gear.

That one had me standing at ease in front of the Company & BTN CO's more than a few times. Never did get anything other than a good tail chewing.

Both CO's respectd my reasoning I guess. I always replied "If their good enough standard uniform issue for civilian cops why not us military cops??"

It's a good & very funny memory if I may say so! Even if I did get my butt chewed on for it, lol.


Lamentation said...

I remember we had this conversation some time ago, shortly after 9/11 iirc. I'm glad we've come around to the same pov.