Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fly the Flag!

Okay, enough is enough!

A mere thirty miles from where I live in California, a 13-year-old school boy this week was told by school authorities that he could no longer fly an American flag from his bicycle. The reason? It might cause racial tensions with other students who complained that they found this display of the American flag and patriotism offensive.

Political Correctness strikes again! I suspect Cody Alicea is one of many young people throughout our nation who is proud of the American flag and displays it in any number of ways. Just to be sure, I researched the proper etiquette and protocol of displaying the American flag. The Rule Code for Flags states "More than simply a piece of fabric, a national flag represents the nation as a whole, and is an important symbol of national identity."

Cody had been flying the flag from his bike to and from school for the past two months. School officials decided to clamp down on this young man during Veteran’s Day week. And these are the people responsible for teaching our children?

In my research to see if there is any substantive argument against Cody flying the flag from his bike, I found nothing which would in any way demean or denigrate the flag.

I might add that I have had a fair amount of experience in handling the American flag. My step father served in World War Two as a Marine. Love of country was unquestioned in our household. In 1960 his business took us to Paris, France, and then from ‘61-‘63 we were in Oslo, Norway. Many times we wanted to display our American flag, but because we were living in another country I understood that it would not be appropriate to offend the citizens of that country. In Paris, we lived on the 14th floor of an apartment building overlooking the Seine River. During the spring and summer, the height of the tourist season in the “City of Lights,” standing on the terrace, we would often drape our American flag from the railing in the evenings when the tourist boats cruised by. We would wave frantically at the boat and flutter the flag. The boat captains would shine their search lights directly on our flag, which always got a cheer from the Americans on board. Then we would take the flag back inside. That was about the extent of our flying the flag while abroad.

Later as a young Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, I served with a guard unit. One of my responsibilities was to head up the detail responsible for raising and lowering the colors each day. This is done with precision. And just to make it a bit more tense, the Commanding Officer would stand looking through the window of his office, not more than thirty feet from where we raised the flag each morning, and observe every detail of our execution. Believe me when I tell you that I drilled my Marines in the proper way of handling the flag! I literally threatened them with bodily harm if anything went wrong, because I did not want to have to stand in front of my commanding officer.

As a Navy chaplain, I have officiated in many military funerals. At times, when we were short-handed, besides performing the religious ritual, I might have to assist in folding the flag taken from the coffin, and/or present the folded flag to the loved one.

So, my first thought in reading this story about Cody was, “Has he done something inappropriate?” The answer is, “No.” He is a young teenager who is proud of his country and the military service of his grandfather. Flying the American flag from his bicycle is a natural expression of that pride.

In writing this story, I have contacted a friend in DC who has assured me that Cody will be given a tour of the White House when he visits our Capitol next spring.

Cody, keep flying that flag! We’re proud of you!

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