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EDITORIAL: Operation Flagpole

‘Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave’

Mugshot

Medal of Honor recipient Col. Van T. Barfoot, 90, lowers the flag outside his home in the Sussex Square subdivision in western Henrico County, Va., on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009. According to the subdivision’s homeowner association’s board, Col. Barfoot is in violation because he flies the flag from a flagpole instead of a pole attached to his porch or doorway. Col. Barfoot has been ordered to remove the pole by 5pm on Friday or face legal action. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Eva Russo)

Thursday is Flag Day, a time to pay special tribute to the American flag and to the ideals and freedoms it symbolizes. While most Americans can freely display Old Glory, a few still run into small-minded opponents who don’t understand what our banner is all about.

In April, the Reverend Review blog reported on a case in Holmdel, N.J., in which homeowner William Lang was forced to remove two small flags he had placed at the entrance to his home to honor his daughter and grandson, who had died during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A representative of the Grace Wood Glen Community Homeowners Association removed the flags and told Mr. Lang, “You are not allowed to fly these flags. No ornaments are allowed on the property.” Mr. Lang responded, “The American Flag is not an ornament.” The association was unmoved.

Fox News Radio reported on 75-year-old Dawn Paulus, of Phillipsburg, N.J., who was ordered to remove some small flags from the balcony of her public-housing unit. She was informed there was a safety issue (the hand-held-sized flags might fall) and that there was an issue of fairness under the housing authority’s interpretation of the Fair Housing Act. “If I hung the American flag up and someone hung a Nazi flag up, they couldn’t tell them to take the Nazi flag down and still let me fly the American flag,” she said she was told. Mrs. Paulus was threatened with eviction.

These and other cases fall under the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which stipulates that any “condominium association, cooperative association or residential real-estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States.” Old Glory is not an ornament, and its display does not invite people to hang out swastikas. It is the unique emblem of the country, and people have a right to show their national pride.

In other cases, some people need to be reminded to do the right thing. On Memorial Day in Denton, Texas, truck driver David Ray Thornburg noted that the flagpole was bare outside the Travel Centers of America (TCA) truck stop off Interstate 35. He initiated what he called “Operation Flagpole,” which entailed Mr. Thornburg visiting a local Wal-Mart, getting a donated flag, climbing the pole and putting it up himself. The event was captured on a video that was posted online, but later that day, the flag vanished. Franchise owner Paul Schmieder explained that the flagpole was private property and it was his decision whether or not to fly the flag. This prompted a revolt among truckers, particularly veterans, who began talking about exercising their own freedom of choice with a TCA boycott.

Within a day, the TCA corporate office issued a statement that all of their franchises were instructed to display the flag. “Despite the dangers associated with a customer climbing a pole,” the statement said, “we applaud the actions of the driver inasmuch as he reminded all of us that issuing a policy is no substitute for action. It was a poignant reminder of the efforts and sacrifices made by servicemen and women; we will redouble our efforts to ensure this failure will not occur again.” By noon that day, the Grand Old Flag was fluttering again outside the Denton truck stop.

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