|Respect Our Veterans, Respect Our Flag|
When you attend a military ceremony, you see no difference among the service members in attendance except for rank. However, across the services, except for the Army, displaying the flag of the District of Columbia and the five territories to honor service members, veterans, and their families is “encouraged” but is left to the “discretion” of the commander whether the flags of the states are displayed. What if we only “encouraged” but did not require the state flags of Maryland or Virginia or any of our other states to be displayed on military or patriotic occasions when other flags are recognized? The question would never be asked, and “discretion” would never be contemplated.
The omission was not recognized at the Naval Station Great Lakes earlier this year, except by the parents of Seaman Jonathan Rucker, who witnessed the state flag of every graduate raised and applauded, except for the flag of the District of Columbia. Seaman Rucker’s mother, who is a fire investigator, wrote to me about the incident. Jonathan, his mother, and his father, who is a veteran and a sergeant in the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, were all born and raised in the District of Columbia.
Discrimination in displaying flags may not intend disrespect, but the disrespect to service members, veterans, and families is undeniable. Yet our armed forces are the least discriminatory, and, in many ways, more progressive than many of our institutions. We abolished racial discrimination in the armed forces before we desegregated the public schools.
The House has already corrected the injustice to our service members and veterans by requiring that the D.C. flag and the flags of the territories be raised whenever the flags of the 50 states are raised. The Senate has failed to do so, but a conference committee of the two houses could provide the needed remedy.
If we cannot tell the difference between one soldier and another in uniform, on what basis do we discriminate against their flags? In today’s volunteer military, where less than one percent of Americans serve, we should be looking for any way we can find to honor those who step forward. Righting this wrong and needless humiliation would be a good place to start.