Patriotism meets Commercialism

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeff Walston
  • 913th Airlift Group
Originally published July 18, 2013

Some Americans may not know this, but in the past, criminal penalties were imposed on individuals who knowingly mutilated, defaced, physically defiled, or trampled upon any flag of the United States. However, on June 11, 1990, the Flag Protection Act of 1989 was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Today, all of those things, including burning the U.S. flag, are considered to be freedom of speech.

Although there are Americans who burn the U.S. flag in protest, there are still those who respect the flag as a symbol of freedom and the legacy of those who, for more than 237 years, have fought and died to keep this country free.

For years, by the millions, Americans have proudly and patriotically displayed U.S. flags outside homes and businesses. And, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, that number grew exponentially in support of American troops.

However, with patriotism comes the responsibility of all who display the U.S. flag, and those who see it for that matter, to assure the flag is not flown when it is torn, soiled or damaged.

A few weeks ago, during dinner with my wife at a restaurant in Bossier City, La., we saw that one of the two U.S. flags mounted on the building had blown onto a decorative metal star hanging next to it, tearing through the flag.

When Jim, the manager, was told how it might look to veterans who frequented the establishment, he said "it would be taken care of immediately."

Within minutes an employee came through the dining room with a large U.S flag on a pole and replaced the damaged flag. A few moments later, our waitress showed up with the damaged U.S. flag and asked if I knew how to properly dispose of it. I did.

In my 34 years in the military, this was the first time anyone has replaced a flag as soon as they were informed, at least by me. Jim's patriotism seemed to be as strong as mine, and his actions truly tugged on my heart strings. You can bet we will return to his restaurant in the future.

Laws or not, the U.S. flag should always be treated with respect, because it represents a proud and vibrant country. If you see one in need of replacing, say something. You could make the difference.

For additional information on proper display of the American Flag, please visit: