|Mother of D.C. Seaman Makes Plea for Respect for the D.C. Flag at Norton Press Conference Monday|
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) delivered remarks today at a press conference on why raising the D.C. flag when the flags of the 50 states are raised in military and civilian ceremonies. “Our residents have long recognized that if we allow the country to overlook or exclude us from the signs and symbols of equal citizenship, we will retard our progress toward equal citizenship. That is why we struggled until we too got a commemorative coin, our coin that commemorates our native son, Duke Ellington, and a D.C. stamp, and just this year, the Frederick Douglass statue, shortly to go to the Capitol to represent the District, along with the statues from the 50 states,” Norton said in her opening remarks. “However, the insignias of the service of our men and women in the military are a category unto themselves.”
The full text of Norton’s opening statement follows.
Opening Remarks of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Veterans Day Press Conference, November 12, 2012
As Prepared for Delivery
Veterans Day has unique meaning to the residents of the District of Columbia. Today, we will first honor D.C. residents, who have served in every American war without a vote in the Congress that authorized their service, and then we will hear from two parents, Tomi Rucker and Michael Boyd, concerning the failure of the United States Navy to recognize the service and the flag of the home of their son, Seaman Jonathan Matthew Rucker, who was born and raised in the District of Columbia, as he graduated from Naval Station Great Lakes. Michael Boyd is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a sergeant in the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Tomi Rucker is an investigator with the D.C. Fire and EMS Department. Both parents were born and raised in the District of Columbia.
We begin by recognizing and thanking those who have given their lives for our country -- the 635 D.C. World War I casualties, more than three states suffered; the 3,575 D.C. World War II casualties, more than incurred by four states; the 547 D.C. war dead in the Korean War, more than from eight states; and the 243 D.C. casualties in the Vietnam War, more than 10 states. Their service fueled our struggle in the Congress to remove a provision in a bill to nationalize the District of Columbia War Memorial, where we meet today. That was our challenge a year ago on Veterans Day, when we rededicated this magnificently renovated memorial, which is especially treasured by our residents, and especially D.C. veterans of every war, who have served without their full citizenship rights. Today, Veterans Day 2012, we can definitively report that, through negotiations with my Republican colleagues, the D.C. War Memorial, paid for with the blood and treasure of D.C. residents, will remain exclusively dedicated to the District’s World War I veterans.
Our residents have long recognized that if we allow the country to overlook or exclude us from the signs and symbols of equal citizenship, we will retard our progress toward equal citizenship. That is why we struggled until we too got a commemorative coin, our coin that commemorates our native son, Duke Ellington, and a D.C. stamp, and just this year, the Frederick Douglass statue, shortly to go to the Capitol to represent the District, along with the statues from the 50 states.
However, the insignias of the service of our men and women in the military are a category unto themselves. Thus, today’s D.C. Veterans Day commemoration features the parents of Seaman Rucker, whose pain, even humiliation, any American parents would feel if the respective state flag were used to mark each young person’s membership in our armed services, except their flag. This story is best told by them.
However, their story has larger meaning for every resident of this city. As Congress returns next week, I have just written to my friend and colleague Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, concerning the provision in the House-passed 2013 Defense authorization bill now in conference, that requires that the flags of the District of Columbia and the territories be displayed by the armed forces whenever the flags of the 50 states are raised, which is absent from the Senate Armed Services Committee-passed fiscal year 2013 Defense Authorization Bill. We appreciate the official memorandum this year from the Undersecretary of Defense Erin C. Conaton to all military departments that “encouraged” but left to the “discretion” of commanders whether to display the D.C. flag and the flags of the territories. We must ask whether the Department of Defense would leave to the discretion of the services whether to display the flags of our neighbors, Maryland and Virginia, for their men and women of the military. We particularly thank my colleagues in the House, who have included in the Defense Authorization for the last two years the provision requiring the display of the D.C. and territorial flags but was dropped from the final fiscal year 2012 Defense Authorization bill due to objections from Senate Republicans. Today, as the House and Senate begin negotiations on a final Defense Authorization bill, we call on the Senate to recognize all who serve in the armed forces of the United States.
However, it is necessary to go beyond the respect due our military, where, of course, raising the flag should be beyond discussion. In March, after hearing from Tomi Rucker, I wrote President Obama, asking that he take the steps necessary to recognize the service of all members of the armed forces on all appropriate occasions when the flags of the 50 states are raised. But, I also asked for similar respect for all our residents who work for federal agencies, based on the difficulty we had until 2004 in flying the D.C. flag among the flags of all the states at Union Station, even though this city is the home of Union Station. Today, on Veterans Day, I renew my request to the President for a Presidential Memorandum requiring all federal agencies, military and civilian, to fly the flags of the District and the territories whenever the flags of the 50 states are flown.
This mother’s letter to me that her son was prepared to “lay his life on the line for a country that will not acknowledge his service” speaks particularly to the service of Seaman Rucker and other members of our military. But, today, once and for all, we ask the President to wipe clean this disrespect from the practices of any and all federal agencies so that Jonathan Rucker’s citizenship is fully acknowledged, whether he is in uniform or back at home as a civilian in his hometown, the nation’s capital.