Veteran says painting violates proper flag etiquette

Last updated: March 26. 2014 12:53PM - 4057 Views
By Bill O’Boyle boboyle@civitasmedia.com

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Section 8 of the American Legion Flag Code:

• No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, state flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

Bunting of blue, white, and red always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkin or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

WILKES-BARRE — Jim Walsh sees red, white and blue all the time.

But when he sees the American flag being improperly displayed or desecrated, Walsh sees only red.

Walsh, 89, a veteran of World War II, became upset when he saw a picture of a painting done by a local artist for state Rep. Karen Boback.

In the painting, Boback, R-Harveys Lake, is depicted sitting at a desk with a U.S. flag draped around her shoulders as a shawl.

“That’s wrong,” Walsh said. “I spoke to the artist and she was not aware of flag etiquette. She became upset, but I don’t blame her. Rep. Boback should have known better, but I don’t blame her, either. We just need more education on the proper way to display our flag.”

Walsh said he isn’t angry with Boback or the woman who painted the portrait, Ruthy Sizemore. He said their ignorance is shared by most Americans who are unaware of how to properly display the U.S. flag.

“People can learn from others’ mistakes,” Walsh said. “We need more programs to teach people what to do and not do when displaying the flag. In my heart, I believe the intent of these two women was honorable.”

Walsh said he has a serious problem with people who deliberately violate the Flag Code. He said having lack of knowledge is one thing, but knowing you are desecrating the flag is another.

“We have to protect and honor the flag,” Walsh said. “In this case, the intent was honorable, but the depiction brought dishonor to the flag.”

Boback said she will not hang the painting in her district office. Sizemore said she won’t alter it, stating she did nothing illegal or wrong.

Boback has talked to Walsh and to Sizemore. She said both are aware of her support for veterans. She sits on the Veterans Committee in the state House and conducts programs throughout the year for veterans and their families.

Artist’s motive

Sizemore said she did not intend to create any furor over the painting.

“I have the greatest respect for veterans,” she said.

Sizemore’s husband of 53 years, David, is a veteran of World War II.

“The painting is a tribute to Rep. Boback and her passion to help veterans,” Sizemore said. “I painted the picture as I visualized her — a true patriot. I used the flag because it is the symbol of our priceless freedom.”

Boback said the issue is not whether anyone was aware of how the flag should be properly displayed.

“Ruthy was honoring the flag,” Boback said. “She meant no malice. She is a true patriot.”

Boback said Walsh accepted her explanation, and she thanked him for bringing the issue to light.

“We all should practice proper flag etiquette in its truest sense,” she said. “This has been a learning experience for everyone.”

John Raughter, spokesman for the American Legion in Indianapolis, said the organization promotes patriotism and educates the American public on the proper display of the flag.

“Basically the American Legion would rather direct our efforts on flag etiquette rather than searching for inadvertent or perceived violations of the Flag Code among well-meaning patriots,” Raughter said.

He said the Legion continues to advocate for passage of a flag protection amendment to the Constitution. He said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag desecration is an expression of free speech.

“The amendment would add language that Congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States,” Raughter said.

Amendment failed

The amendment was again introduced last year, but fell short of passage by one vote in the Senate, he said.

Last year, Walsh sent a letter to the American Legion national commander on the proper way to display the flag. Walsh has copies of greeting cards circulated with the American Legion seal that depict a puppy laying on the flag and another with words written in the white stripes of the flag — both clear violations of the Flag Code.

“I have seen a decline in the display and respect for our nation’s flag,” Walsh wrote in the letter. “Patriotism is like a badge, and I wear it proudly and have throughout my life. No one is born a patriot — it must be taught.”

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