Our Flag …. “a living thing.”

FLAG casket a01_50263067

In this digital, disconnected age of “me… me… me”, I mourn the loss of true patriotism in my country.

We have a president who initially refused to wear a flag lapel pin, didn’t bring hand to heart during the National Anthem and has “saluted” his Marine Honor Guard with a Styrofoam cup in his hand.

He’s not the worst, he’s just the most obvious in his disrespect for America his cynical ignorance of our national symbols is palpable…

Our flag… Old Glory, the National Colors, The Grand Old Flag has covered the caskets of scores of my Marine comrades in Vietnam, my friends and fellow veterans… it is one last honor we may receive for serving our beloved country.

The flag is a vital symbol and should be respected by all; there are rules government the how and so of caring for, flying, displaying and retiring, they are found in the United States Code.

The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” — Section 8

“No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.” — Section 8j



The following was printed in my local paper this morning:

Gainesville Daily Register

To the Editor:

The United States flag at the Cooke County Courthouse has languished at half staff for over a week at the time of this writing for no valid reason.

Presumably this was at the direction of the county commissioners, though I do not recall a resolution or official announcement for a period of mourning.

It is my understanding that the half-staffing was in recognition of the recent, tragic deaths of four North Central Texas College students killed in a semi-bus accident. Nonetheless, the solemn gesture is misplaced and not authorized under the United States Code.

flag kids DSC_7208Title 4 of the U.S. Code sets forth the rules for displaying the flag and Section 7/M authorizes only the President of the United States, governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia to order the flag flown at half-staff, and then only for certain reasons and periods of time.

There is no such provision for local officials, commissioners, mayors, police or fire chiefs to bring the National Colors at half staff.

Lowering the flag to half-staff is one of the greatest honors the country can bestow on an individual and for that honor to have any meaning, it should be rare and restricted to only those mentioned in the Flag Code.

How does this gesture pay respect to the memory of our four student athletes when it violates the very standards for lowering the flag to half staff and leaving it there day after day after day? It doesn’t… and is therefore inappropriate.

In contrast, on Memorial Day, the official mourning period for all our war dead, the flag is lowered only until noon, then returned to full staff.

flag-half-staffTwo years ago there was a similar debate and disagreement locally about the flags being lowered for victims of a school shooting in Connecticut. At that time the commissioners insisted that the courthouse flag should be lowered as directed by the president. But despite the absence of any such presidential directive, the county flags were lowered for the NCTC students.

The U.S. Flag Code is not a law and there are no penalties for violations; however it provides a simple guideline for how our nation’s symbol should be displayed and respected. And such treatment should be uniform from state to state and town to town… it is the United States Code.

Gainesville is nationally known for its Medal of Honor Host City Program and was named The Most Patriotic Small town in America for 2013; how does it look for visitors see the post office flag at half staff and the schools’ flags are not… or the courthouse flags are down and the city’s flag is at full staff?

This lack of continuity creates confusion and makes the community look badly.

So to head off a growing trivialization of this memorial salute, and to preserve the dignity and significance of flying the U.S. flag at half-staff, it is paramount to follow the U.S. Code guidelines governing the National Colors.

And while we grieve our local and personal losses deeply, proper respect for our flag must be maintained – no matter the circumstances.

Gary Alexander


Flag clouds DSC_9497

About Gary Alexander

Volunteer coordinator for veterans support network in North Texas. Now retired from his private psychotherapy practice, I specialized in the diagnosis and treatment posttraumatic stress, working with victim assistance programs, veterans and the Veterans Administration for over 20 years. After being wounded in action in Vietnam, I was medically retired from the Marine Corps and know first hand many of the readjustment difficulties and psychological stresses experienced by today's OIF and OEF veterans. I am available, at minimal cost, to speak at your functions on several subjects including veterans issues, Vietnam, the Medal of Honor, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and critical incident debriefings.
This entry was posted in Heroes, Liberty Constitution, Marine Corps, Military, Obama, Patriotism, Uncategorized, Veterans, War. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Our Flag …. “a living thing.”

  1. GA, you are SOOOOO Right!

    This is a “Sloowly I turned” (Niagara Falls) moment for me as well. What scares the crap out of me is the individual’s responsible to carry out proper Flag etiquette rarely even know it exists.

    I have a school Superintendent who after several blunders is still too proud of his stupidity to ask. I have emailed him the proper protocol on several occasions and even walked in to the school to bring it to his attention. At this point it is outright disrespect for “Old Glory” in my opinion. The next time I will embarrass him before a School Board meeting.

    It’s not surprising that an act reserved Government leaders and Veterans when authorised is not understood by those who no longer teach civics or understand it’s deep history.


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