'Old Glory' More Than A Symbol Or A Piece Of Cloth

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by Butch Miller
National Commander of the American Legion

June 14 is Flag Day. It's the day our nation sets aside to pay special honor to the American flag and its role in our country's history.

I have been fortunate to travel extensively in the past nine months. My travels have taken me across our nation and to several foreign lands. No matter where I find myself, I can look out of a window and somewhere in my field of view will be an American flag. That makes me proud and always brings me a sense of well being.

Two weeks ago I was in Indianapolis for the dedication of the only memorial in our nation to recipients of the Medal of Honor. During the impressive ceremony, the backdrop was a panorama of American flags held proudly by veterans, Scouts, members of the military and other patriotic organizations. During the dedication ceremony, the president of the Medal of Honor Society, Paul Bucha, told a crowd of thousands that the American flag was much more than a mere piece of cloth. Our flag is the hope of the world and the solemn cover that drapes the caskets of the nation's fallen heroes.

I find it ironic that for 10 consecutive Flag Days the American people have joined together to celebrate the lessons of "Old Glory", while simultaneously toiling to return to us the right to protect the American flag from physical desecration. That protection was stolen from us by a 1989 Supreme Court decision.

The American people, Congress and the President quickly reacted to that decision and passed a law - a simple statute - to protect the American flag. The Supreme court overturned that law. In doing so, the court told Americans a simple statute would not work and the only way to return protection to the American flag was through a constitutional amendment.

Today, a decade later, we are still fighting to regain the people's right to protect the American flag. Polling over the decade has remained constant: nearly 80 percent of Americans favor an amendment. Forty-nine state legislatures have passed resolutions petitioning Congress to pass the amendment and send it to the states for ratification.

Why then are we still fighting for this right? Why has the House twice overwhelmingly passed the amendment only to have it defeated by a few votes in the U.S. Senate? Why do some Senators continue to propose a statute when they know it won't work?

The answer seems simple to me: We the People are not holding our elected officials accountable for their actions. We believe we elect our lawmakers to represent the majority of their constituents, but they don't. That's the real tragedy.

Look around you this Flag Day. Drink in the beauty of "Old Glory" waving proudly. Remember the grade school lessons reinforced by the number of stars and stripes. Remember the story of Francis Scott Key and the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Recall the scene of "Old Glory" being raised on Mount Surabachi. And take pride in the lump in your throat that comes with the realization that our American flag is much more than a symbol or a piece of cloth.

On Flag Day, let's honor "Old Glory" as never before. Then call our senators and urge them to do the right thing and vote for a constitutional amendment to return to us the right to protect our flag. I don't believe that's too much to ask of every citizen.

Butch Miller is the National Commander of The American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veterans' organization. Miller's home is in Woodbridge, Va. You can learn more about the American flag and flag etiquette by visiting The American Legion on the Web at www.legion.org. For information on the flag-protection amendment visit the Citizens Flag Alliance Website at www.cfa-inc.org.

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