Tag Archives: burning the american flag

The Misplaced Respect of Stars For Our Troops

A while back I noticed pictures of scouts (male and female) cutting the canton (blue field) from American flags readying them for proper disposal. I was not happy. I then noticed pictures of stars cut from American flags that we neatly packaged in very small zip-close bags with a nice typed note inside to our country’s veterans that reads:

“I am part of our American flag that has flown over the USA. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that You are not forgotten.” (Emphasis theirs)

Let’s see what the US Flag Code has to say about a flag that is “tattered and torn” from the sun and wind. TITLE 4, Chapter 1, Sec. 8(k) states:

“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

You can imagine my surprise that someone would actually think it is just fine to cut up the flag, whether “tattered and torn” or not,  and hand out its pieces as a tribute. So, I found the website for Stars for our Troops and sent them a message. When you submit a message to the organization, you must supply all of your contact information.

My message read: Deplorable! http://www.starsforourtroops.org (Your) company cuts up American flags and gives the stars to vets. So, desecration of our National Ensign is OK as long as you give the stars to “deserving” people.

In return, I received a package in the mail

The package contained a sandwich-sized zip-close bag with 49 of the smaller zip-close bags, that I mentioned earlier, containing stars cut from flags. There was also a typed note with a hand-written message.

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The written message said this:

“You have the opportunity to change and thank 49 people because we appreciate them.” Signed by Susan.

Below is my final response to Susan and her organization’s completely misplaced respect for “our troops”.

Dear Susan,

I do have an opportunity, one that is multifaceted due to your organization. My first opportunity is to properly dispose of American flag material, something that is every American’s responsibility, whether they accomplish it their self or have a veteran service organization do it for them.

Here is the sequence of events that took place to properly dispose of the 49 stars and the small threads that fell from some of them:

stars-for-our-tropps-disrespect-3First came the removal of all 49 stars, the tiny threads and the pieces of paper inside each bag. Side note, I recycled the paper.

I did not have access to nor did I have the ability to create a fire and place the stars on it as is usual, so I adapted and took a piece of scrap metal that I had, cleaned it off, placed the stars on it and soaked them in lighter fluid.

stars-for-our-tropps-disrespect-4I then lit the stars and made sure they burned completely. I gathered the remains in a small shovel, buried them in a small spot in my back yard, sounded Taps through my phone and rendered a hand salute during that time (veterans are now able to salute in civilian clothes since a National Defense Act of the mid 2000s).

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My next opportunity is to educate you and the rest of America as to why it is so very wrong to cut up “tattered and torn” American flags and give them out as a misplaced form of appreciation. This is not some one-up, tit-for-tat game nor is it an attack, this is my version of reproof for you. It may seem harsh, but out of a difficult situation we can learn and grow. In no way should you continue to cut flags and hand out the pieces as tribute! It does not matter how any veteran “feels” when they receive it, what you are doing is wrong and I’ll even attempt to educate my fellow veterans. The “Tears in veteran’s eyes” thing does not phase me. It’s a caring gesture that the veterans appreciate and a great majority of Americans, it seems, have no understanding of flag desecration, especially when it is done with utter sincerity.

I cannot force you to do anything, nor do I really want to. I would appreciate it if you would just stop doing this of your own volition. Stop desecrating flags and handing out the pieces. Here’s a thought, switch to handing out tiny triangle-folded flags. The flags that are on the small sticks that people buy and wave at Independence Day parades would be perfect, people don’t know what to do with them on July 5th anyway, so why not begin a campaign to have them donated/mailed to you. You could fold them into triangles per the Flag Code and even get local JROTC cadets or scouts to help in this. How much more meaningful this would be, a definite win-win for everyone! Here is a picture of a flag that I received in 2010 from a prospective Eagle Scout. It’s a great idea!

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Disrespect to the American Flag

Flag ceremonyBurning the America Flag
We, as Americans burn our beloved flag when it is old, worn and tattered. We burn it in a special Flag Retirement Ceremony. As a matter of fact, in many cities across America, scout and veteran groups take in flags for this specific purpose. They will ceremonially burn one flag representing all of the others (sometimes hundreds), and then incinerate the rest. This is a great way to show respect for Old Glory.

While I was on the Base Honor Guard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, (before the internet) I had a local woman call and explain that she had cleaned out her grill so that she could burn her own worn out American flag. She was very concerned and wanted to make sure that she was doing everything correctly. I assured her that what she had done was fine and thanked her for her diligence and respect and that it was what was in her heart that mattered and that it was quite obvious that she had every intention of utmost repsect. There is, however, another way to burn the flag.

American-flag-burningThe young man pictured at right is burning the American flag in protest. Many veterans and patriotic Americans find this so reprehensible that they support a Constitutional Amendment to make the act a crime. I do not support an amendment. You might be wondering how on earth, after 20+ years in the Air Force and JROTC/ROTC, etc. could I possibly say that? Freedom of speech.

“Don’t give me that ‘freedom of speech’ line!”
It is freedom of speech to burn the American flag. At least some see it that way. I, in no way, support burning the flag in protest, ever. I believe that those who do burn the flag most likely are unable to articulate their concerns and resort to such an inflammatory (no pun intended) action only to gain immediate publicity. Flag burning does nothing but make a large section of the American public dislike the people and their cause for which the crass action was committed. There are better ways to exercise your First Amendment rights, much better ways.

Upside down flagThe upside down flag
There is a short video of two protesters on a scooter riding around with the flag upside down [language] and a Soldier and Marine run after them wanting to do them physical harm. While I understand the passion these two military men have for their flag and country, what they did was not what America is about.

Upside down flagYou can see in these pictures, that even members and veterans of America’s military use the upside down flag- a symbol of distress and NOT disrespect– as a way to show their concern for America. I support this. I do not support writing on the flag unless absolutely necessary- but I cannot think of an instance where it may be necessary.

Lastly, on upside down flags, toward the end of the movie, The Last Castle, the commander of the military prison yells out something like, “don’t let them disrespect the flag!” as the prisoners are attempting, and rightfully so, to raise the flag upside down. I do not remember if the flag is actually raised, but it should be, in my opinion- watch the movie, it is quite good. The point here is that popular knowledge is usually based on information like this and then couples with the pride that swells in the hearts of the patriotic. All without basis in truth.

Upside down flagDisrespect to the flag is against the law!
No, it is not. Whether it is urban legend or just a lack of education on the subject, one can wipe their feet with the Stars and Stripes, if one so chooses, in front of the police and not be taken into custody.

I have written all kinds of articles regarding the proper use and display of our flag and have researched all the information I could find. While I do not expect every American to fully know all of the Flag Code and what guidance each branch of our armed forces has published, I do hope that Americans, especially my military brothers and sisters, read up and understand this published guidance.