The Misplaced Respect of Stars For Our Troops

DrillMaster Commentary, Honor Guard, Instructional 9 Comments

A while back I noticed pictures of scouts (male and female) cutting the canton (blue field) from American flags readying them for proper disposal. I was not happy. I then noticed pictures of stars cut from American flags that we neatly packaged in very small zip-close bags with a nice typed note inside to our country’s veterans that reads:

“I am part of our American flag that has flown over the USA. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that You are not forgotten.” (Emphasis theirs)

Let’s see what the US Flag Code has to say about a flag that is “tattered and torn” from the sun and wind. TITLE 4, Chapter 1, Sec. 8(k) states:

“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.”

You can imagine my surprise that someone would actually think it is just fine to cut up the flag, whether “tattered and torn” or not,  and hand out its pieces as a tribute. So, I found the website for Stars for our Troops and sent them a message. When you submit a message to the organization, you must supply all of your contact information.

My message read: Deplorable! http://www.starsforourtroops.org (Your) company cuts up American flags and gives the stars to vets. So, desecration of our National Ensign is OK as long as you give the stars to “deserving” people.

In return, I received a package in the mail

The package contained a sandwich-sized zip-close bag with 49 of the smaller zip-close bags, that I mentioned earlier, containing stars cut from flags. There was also a typed note with a hand-written message.

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The written message said this:

“You have the opportunity to change and thank 49 people because we appreciate them.” Signed by Susan.

Below is my final response to Susan and her organization’s completely misplaced respect for “our troops”.

Dear Susan,

I do have an opportunity, one that is multifaceted due to your organization. My first opportunity is to properly dispose of American flag material, something that is every American’s responsibility, whether they accomplish it their self or have a veteran service or scouting organization do it for them.

Here is the sequence of events that took place to properly dispose of the 49 stars and the small threads that fell from some of them:

stars-for-our-tropps-disrespect-3First came the removal of all 49 stars, the tiny threads and the pieces of paper inside each bag. Side note, I recycled the paper.

I did not have access to nor did I have the ability to create a fire and place the stars on it as is usual, so I adapted and took a piece of scrap metal that I had, cleaned it off, placed the stars on it and soaked them in lighter fluid.

stars-for-our-tropps-disrespect-4I then lit the stars and made sure they burned completely. I gathered the remains in a small shovel, buried them in a small spot in my back yard, sounded Taps through my phone and rendered a hand salute during that time (veterans are now able to salute in civilian clothes since a National Defense Act of the mid 2000s).

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My next opportunity is to educate you and the rest of America as to why it is so very wrong to cut up “tattered and torn” American flags and give them out as a misplaced form of appreciation. This is not some one-up, tit-for-tat game nor is it an attack, this is my version of reproof for you. It may seem harsh, but out of a difficult situation we can learn and grow. In no way should you continue to cut flags and hand out the pieces as tribute! It does not matter how any veteran “feels” when they receive it, what you are doing is wrong and I’ll even attempt to educate my fellow veterans. The “Tears in veteran’s eyes” thing does not phase me. It’s a caring gesture that the veterans appreciate and a great majority of Americans, it seems, have no understanding of flag desecration, especially when it is done with utter sincerity.

I cannot force you to do anything, nor do I really want to. I would appreciate it if you would just stop doing this of your own volition. Stop desecrating flags and handing out the pieces. Here’s a thought, switch to handing out tiny triangle-folded flags. The flags that are on the small sticks that people buy and wave at Independence Day parades would be perfect, people don’t know what to do with them on July 5th anyway, so why not begin a campaign to have them donated/mailed to you. You could fold them into triangles per the Flag Code and even get local JROTC cadets or scouts to help in this. How much more meaningful this would be, a definite win-win for everyone! Here is a picture of a flag that I received in 2010 from a prospective Eagle Scout. It’s a great idea!

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Please don’t comment with your heartfelt feelings. Standards matter, not feelings.

Comments 9

  1. I SIR AM A VETERAN . I STILL SERVE MY COUNTRY AND MY FELLOW VETERANS BY RENDERING FULL MILITARY HONORS TO DECEASED VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES . YOU ARE CORRECT IN STATING THE PREFERRED WAY OF DISPOSING OF THE FLAG IS BURNING , HOWEVER YOU FAIL TO MENTION AN ALTERNATIVE WAY IS DISASSEMBLY OF THE COMPONENTS ,I.E. STARS,STRIPES AND CANTON ! AS A MEMBER OF A VETERANS ORGANIZATION THAT DISPOSES OF OUR FLAG FOR PEOPLE I TAKE OFFENSE AT YOUR NEGATIVE COMMENTS TO AN ORGANIZATION THAT IS INCREASING THE AWARENESS OF OUR FLAG AND THE RESPECT IT IS DUE . WHAT BETTER WAY THAN TO CARRY A PORTION OF THAT FLAG WITH YOU . THIS VETERANS DAY I WILL BE GOING TO A SCHOOL BY INVITATION AS A VETERAN TO HELP RAISE AWARENESS OF THE FLAG TOO ELEMENTARY STUDENTS I PLAN ON GIVING STARS TO THE CHILDREN . I FIND YOUR REMARKS AND HOLIER THAN THOU ATTITUDE TO BE COMPLETE XXXXXX!

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      Author

      Mr Bradley,

      Thanks for your comment. One word that seems to escape some with this viewpoint is, “dispose”. A definition of the word is not: ‘dismantle the flag, hand out the faded and torn pieces, and carry it around’. Dispose means to discard and in the case of the American flag it is meant to be a permanent action.

      By all means disagree with the subject, but please refrain from personal attacks and swearing (I replaced your inappropriate writing with “XXXX”).

  2. I just heard of this campaign and was appalled by the actions of these folks. Your suggestion is a worthy one but sadly never put into place from what I can tell. Very sad.

  3. Here is something that everyone should be made aware of.
    Burning of flags and the proper handling of them is something most all Americans are truly aware of. Unfortunately flags that are made today are not made of wool and cotton as they were years ago.
    In my town at the ceremony of the Flag burning, black smoke filed the air with carcinogens from the fabric the flags were made of. A tar residue was what was left, no ashes. The in town site of the burning can no longer be used because of this. The ceremony was moved to a different cite and only a few flags are burned and the rest are piling up. Something different needs to be done.
    I personally have handed out many Stars to Veterans. As a president of a VFW Auxiliary I have never received a rude comment or disapproval from any Veteran
    My husband is a Veteran and a cancer survivor. No more black smoke needs to fill our air. There has got to be a better way then burning
    Trash isn’t allowed to be burned in my state unless it’s in a trash to energy plant I hope our country’s leaders can find a better way to retire old flags. Maybe only allowing flags to be made of wool or cotton?
    In the meantime I will continue to hand out the beautiful stars from our country’s flag with a personal thank you to those who serve or served our great country

    Carol Farrior

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      Author

      If “most all Americans are truly aware of” appropriate handling of our flag, why does it receive so much disrespect? Including what you do to it?

      Because you’ve never received a “rude comment” you justify disgracing our flag. What do you do with the stripes?

      There certainly are flags still made from wool, cotton, and silk. The majority purchased by individuals are the all weather type made from nylon.

      There are other means of destroying nylon flags, including recycling. Please stop cutting up our flag.

    2. Flags that cannot be burned in your community due to the content of the fabric can be properly disposed of at your local crematorium.

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        Author
  4. DrillMaster,

    I currently have a son serving in the military and heard about the Stars for our Troops project. My father was a veteran of WW2, my father in law was a veteran of Korea. I can trace my family’s military history all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I am a proud American who loves and respects our Flag. I know the proper way to discard of the Flag, and I know how to treat it with respect.

    Can I ask your input on this question please? If the stars were collected and given to our military members and veterans, and the rest of the Flag, the stripes, were given to a local veteran’s organization to be retired properly, do you find that acceptable?

    Thank you for your input,
    Karen DeVoid

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      Author

      Ms. DeVoid,

      This is a good, thoughtful question and I appreciate it. Let’s look at the whole process, but we can stop at the first part: the flag is not to be cut. The only time it is cut is when the flag is so huge that it would be unsafe to burn. Safety is the main concern for the larger flags, which are cut into fours or even sixes, depending on the size. Smaller flags, 5′ x 9.5′ and smaller, should be properly disposed of as a whole flag, that’s the standard. Variation from the written standard is what I find to be so egregious in this case. We know what is correct and yet this organization is flaunting proper, respectful disposal to give veterans “good feelings”. I find this blatant disregard for our Flag Code reprehensible. When we don’t follow established laws, there is a consequence. Not following this standard and cutting up a flag tells others that flaunting standards and disrespect for the intention of showing respect is fine.

      Note: Many flags made of nylon or other synthetic materials quite possibly can be recycled rather than letting of noxious gases while burning.

      I hope my answer helps.

      DM

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