Flag-Burning from the Perspective of a Soldier

Patriotism & Veterans Gone Wild

Men in most countries (at least in the West) who are not obligated to service volunteer for service to fight for their country. Whether the men are British, American, Italian, or German they sign up to go and fight a real threat. 

This is the same for Americans. In America’s 240-plus years of existence, American men (and women) have left home to protect their homeland.

Americans also go out to fight in oppressed countries to free the oppressed; Americans fight to bring democracy to other countries. So Americans sign up and fight to protect their democracy and to bring democracy to others.

The Constitution is the basis of America’s laws. The two Amendments which always get a lot of attention are the 1stAmendment and the 2nd Amendment. These amendments protect free speech and gun rights, so it’s easy to see why these two amendments are always in the news.

The service members, whether they are in the Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marines are sent to foreign countries in order to bring democracy or defend democracy against threats real or imagined. But the point I’m going to make is about what happens when these men and women return home.

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“Desecration. Just the word itself, suggests the holy status many Americans have conferred on the national symbol.”

These men and women go out to protect your rights and freedoms. They risk their lives in order to protect the Constitution so you can have free speech, the right to bear arms, your right to a speedy trial, and all the other rights guaranteed by that great piece of papyrus.

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But something happens to the soldiers, sailors, and airmen when they return. It may not happen immediately after they return and it doesn’t happen to all . . . just a few. I’m not talking about PTSD although it does happen to some but not all. What I’m talking about is how these service members get this strange idea. Where it comes from I don’t know.

See, I served in the military for 14 years as both a reservist and on active duty. I served during both peacetime and during conflicts. I served on the homeland and in theater. I was both a service member and a dependent but I never had these strange ideas.

The idea is that the sailor or marine, the airmen or the soldier has the right to dictate what rights people have and the majority of the time it’s their freedom of speech which is questioned. Because the veteran went and defended the Constitution, they believe they have the right to tell you how to handle those rights.

I see this every time somebody tries to burn the American flag. For some reason, the service member tries to steal a person’s private property, that being the flag because the service member disagrees with how the flag is being treated.

I find this to be more offensive when a veteran or current serving member of the military does this because the service member in my opinion is suffering from “delusions of grandeur.” The person who is attempting to burn the flag is breaking no laws so long as public safety is not impaired by the fires. He isn’t performing an act which is unconstitutional. In fact, flag-burning has been held up by the Supreme Court as freedom of speech.

The Flag Desecration Amendment, also known as the Flag-Burning Amendment, is a very controversial Amendment allowed under the Constitution. This Amendment states that the United States Congress has to allow the expression of political views even if it is through the burning of the United States Flag. This Amendment passed by the House of Representatives states that Congress has no power to restrict the desecration of the United States Flag.

“Desecration. Just the word itself,” according to Robert Justin Goldstein, Professor Emeritus of political science at Oakland University “suggests the holy status many Americans have conferred on the national symbol.”

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The flag protection movement, he notes, dates from the turn of the century, when conservative elements sought to counter what they saw as the divisive effects of change by promoting respect for the flag. The effort caught on among people of diverse backgrounds, interests, and allegiances who saw in the flag the unity and meaning they apparently missed in America.

Even our current President, Donald Trump has let emotions over take his senses when it comes to freedom of speech. When it comes to flag desecration, he tweets:

“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Gregory Lee Johnson, then a member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, participated in a political demonstration during the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas. Gregory Lee Johnson was convicted of violating Texas’s flag desecration law act of flag-burning.

Even the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stressed that flag-burning is protected by the Constitution — even if he doesn’t think it should be. “I hate the result [in Texas v. Johnson],” Scalia, said in 2014 at Brooklyn Law School. He continues, “I would send that guy to jail so fast if I were king.”

I can understand the emotions that the flag has on people, especially veterans even though I disagree with those emotions. But, you cannot impose your beliefs on somebody, especially when the beliefs of others are protected by the Constitution. You fought in order to give people these freedoms, you shouldn’t try to dictate how these freedoms are practiced. You should be proud that we’re allowed these freedoms because people in other countries, they aren’t as lucky.

Edit: You, the reader may read this as supporting flag-burning, on the contrary this post is a pro-free speech. I served 14 years in both as a reservist and on active duty, as a service member and as a dependent, and in peacetime as well in theater. I served in Fallujah and Ramadi in al Anbar Province in support of OIF III in 2005 and in Operation Desert Sheild/Desert Storm so I have skin (a lot of skin) in this game.

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