Memorial Day Flag Fight Dishonors Fallen Soldier

Cynthia Dermody
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flag feeI hate stupid fees and unpatriotic acts as much as the next patriot, but a recent brouhaha over a fee to hang American flags on utility poles along a Long Island parade route is getting blown way out of proportion. And this time, it's not Big Greedy Corporation or Money Grubbing Government that is in the wrong, it's the good-intentioned but overreacting parade organizers who are trying to honor a local fallen soldier.

I can't believe Army 1st Lt. Joseph J. Theinert, who was just 24 when he died dismantling a bomb in Afghanistan last June, would approve of all this squabbling in his name. The flags are being hung along the parade route in his honor. He died dismantling a BOMB. In a WAR ZONE. He was doing it after he ordered his 20-man unit to retreat so they would not be harmed in case it exploded. This hero saved the lives of 20 men. This is BIG STUFF.

A $23 fee to hang anything on publicly owned utility poles per a state law that you can't just change on a whim is very small stuff. See, it's so little it's practically invisible in the scope of all that Theinert and the men and women who preceded him, followed him, and will continue to follow him have sacrificed and will sacrifice.

Our flag and all it stands for is sacred. Theinert and other soldiers fight for our right to hang our flag wherever we want without paying for it. Yes, yes, and yes. It's a stupid law, one that needs to be changed or waived. That's what members of a town council and veterans' group are making a stink about out on Shelter Island, a resort community off the Eastern end of Long Island, New York.

The pole owners are totally with them on that. Yes, yes, and yes. The CEO of Verizon, which owns most of the poles along the parade route, already waived its fees. Done. The CEO of Long Island Power Authority, a non-profit utility company under state oversight that owns the rest of the poles, has also agreed to pay for the use of theirs -- but said they cannot be waived. Like it or not, a law that prohibits state authorities from giving use of or disposing of their property for free still exists.

So why is this still an issue? The town members are right but now is not the time to play this card. Not this weekend. Memorial Day is when we come together, not apart, in reflective and harmonious unison to pay homage to our soldiers, like Theinert, who when writing in a journal in high school about his interest in serving in the military, said:

“There is nothing glorious about war, but I will go into it to keep the people I love away from it."

There are good reasons to fight, but this is not one of them.

Are these local residents right to make such a big deal over this American flag fee?

 

Image via pwbaker/Flickr

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