- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

There are certain national symbols that are the property of every American and worthy of protection from desecration and dishonor. The American flag is such a symbol. Founded on the principle of liberty, it is the most honorable banner of our nation. It stands for the freedoms we cherish and is integral to America’s history and spirit of freedom. It deserves protection.

In the near future, the Senate will consider Senate Joint Resolution 4, the flag-protection amendment. The House of Representatives already has acted favorably on an identical resolution, passing it last summer by an overwhelming margin. In addition, all 50 state legislatures have passed resolutions asking Congress to submit the amendment to the states for ratification. Frankly, it is time the Senate released this amendment so the American people can decide to protect the flag.

While it’s difficult to describe exactly what the flag means to people, a letter written in April 1945 by Lt. Richard Wellbrock after U.S. troops liberated him from a German prisoner-of-war camp gives us a good idea. “Yesterday at 12:40,” he writes, “the American flag was raised over Moosburg. To be free once again and to describe it is far beyond my ability. It is man’s greatest possession and without it, he finds he is only half alive. It was indeed a spectacle that I’ll never be able to fully describe, to be one of 175,000 prisoners in this camp and see them all — English, Indians, Russians, French and Americans — fall to their knees as they watched the American flag rise over this ‘hellhole.’”

The U.S. flag continues to unite us. It gave us comfort when its broad stripes and bright stars streamed over the wounds of the Pentagon, waved through the smoke of “ground zero,” and marked freedom’s stand in a Pennsylvania field where patriots fell. And over the past several years, Americans have found strength in its presence — whether it was flying from highway bridges, the windows of cars or at millions of homes across the country. It was celebrated everywhere, and everywhere revered.

Since Revolutionary times, the American flag has been an honored emblem chosen to symbolize the nation and the freedoms we cherish. In 1777, the Continental Congress resolved that the flag represents the United States and its ideals of liberty and justice for all citizens. This resolve is exactly what needs to be safeguarded through a constitutional amendment.

Passage of the flag amendment does not prevent anyone from making any statement or saying anything, no matter how objectionable it may be. It simply returns the right of the people to legislate against acts considered profoundly offensive to the majority of Americans.

I trust individual senators will do the right thing and move this measure to the states for ratification, and if not, I trust the American people will begin moving those who stand in the way back to their individual states at the November election.

In service together for America’s veterans,

William A. Boettcher

AMVETS national commander

Dear Commander:

In a past column, retired Maj. Gen. Pat Brady, U.S. Army, a Medal of Honor recipient and president of the Citizens Flag Alliance, so eloquently stated:

“In the middle of the season of patriotism, one week after Flag Day in 1989, the Supreme Court bowed to a self-described Maoist and turned America’s greatest symbol into a common rag subject to unspeakable insults from those who hate our Constitution.

“The Supreme Court made a mistake when they said that the freedom to burn the American flag was a legacy of our freedoms from Madison and Jefferson and Washington, and the other creators and defenders of our Constitution. Our oath to defend our Constitution demands we correct the errors of the Court.

“Our struggle is symbolic and symbols define us as a people. Is there any symbol in America dearer to more people than the flag? Does any American have anything or anyone who is dear to them that they would not protect? When Old Glory flies, it waves the Constitution before all who see it. We should demand the right to protect the symbol of our Constitution.”

Flag Day was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and is honored in communities throughout the nation. Flag etiquette states that the U.S. flag should always be treated with the utmost care and respect. The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything. When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object.

James Madison, who wrote the First Amendment and condemned flag desecration, said, “It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently free.” Anyone who says burning the American flag is speech is not properly instructing our children.

As we prepare to cast our ballots for president and some members of Congress, let us urge our senators to cast their votes to restore to the people the right to protect this sacred shroud.

Shaft notes

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has named September as “National Preparedness Month.” The Office of Personnel Management has updated its emergency guides, which may be downloaded at www.opm.gov/emergency. The site lists publications tailored for federal employees in their workplace and also in their homes and a manager’s guide to assist supervisors in their planning for potential emergencies. Additional resources can also be found at www.ready.gov, which is operated by the Department of Homeland Security.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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