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Navy veteran appalled at desecration of American flag at Chancellor High School and response by division leaders
A tattered American flag at a Chancellor High football game has led a local veteran to call for flag etiquette training.
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By PAMELA GOULD
Stafford County resident Mike Curry drove to Chancellor High School on Aug. 24, looking forward to an evening of high school football featuring one of his grandsons on the visiting Riverbend team.
But before the kickoff, he was aghast at what he saw in the bleachers beyond the end zone of the Spotsylvania County school. There stood a group of Chancellor students known as "The Charger Chaos," decked out in the school colors of burgundy and black and with body paint on their faces and chests.
Their creative expression of school spirit didn't offend him. It was one student's display of a tattered American flag on a wooden pole that rested casually on his shoulder that shocked Curry to his patriotic core.
The Navy veteran said he was so upset he didn't dare address the matter himself lest he do something he'd regret.
Instead, his wife approached a school employee and pointed out the desecrated flag. That person acknowledged the problem and the flag was seized, Curry said.
But his shock didn't end there.
Curry, 63, sent all seven members of the Spotsylvania School Board an email with photos of the incident, suggesting it was "a teachable moment" and his hope that county students would be educated on respect for the nation's flag.
"I strongly encourage that ALL students get a few minutes instruction on both flag law and much more importantly the suitable care and attention that our flag deserves," he wrote in his Aug. 28 email.
Federal law outlines proper etiquette for handling, displaying and disposing of the American flag. The Supreme Court has ruled, however, that the constitutional guarantee of free speech prevents punishment for violating the flag code.
Three of seven School Board members had responded to Curry as of the middle of this week and two of those did nothing to ease his frustration, he said.
Board member Dawn Shelley sent a polite reply but made no offer of action.
Ray Lora, also a veteran, first responded, "I share your feelings" about the lack of respect for the flag and country shown at Chancellor High.
When Curry said he wasn't looking for commiseration but action, Lora messaged that he faced "an uphill battle."
Here are some key guidelines for showing respect for the American flag as spelled out by federal statute.
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 napkins 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.