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Chaplain Norris Burkes: A Memorial Day note to my neighbor

If you find this newspaper column pinned to your Nevada County door, it’s because I asked your neighbor to place it there.

In fact, if I have my way, your friends will copy it and post it on several porches, or at least on their social media accounts.

No, I’m not trying to promote my column. This Memorial Day, I’m calling your attention to your American flag.



Pull your curtain back now and take a look. Is it wavering, wilted or worn? Is it torn, tilted or tossed aside?

Has your red, white and blue become more like orange, tan and gray?



Has the symbol that survived “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” become only a tarnished driveway marker for your guests?

If so, I’m asking you to properly retire the old flag.

On Bob Villa’s website, he touts his “Tried, True, Trustworthy Home Advice,” with four ways to properly give Old Glory a resting place (BobVilla.com).

The most common disposal method is to burn the flag as suggested by the US Flag Code — not something I recommend to my Northern California neighbors.

My favorite suggestion is to repurpose the flags by sending them to organizations such as Stars for Our Troops and Socks for Soldiers.

If you prefer more ceremony, Villa offers guidelines to bury the flag in a wooden box.

But the most convenient method is to visit the local hardware store and deposit your worn Old Glory in their flag disposal box. Villa says similar collection programs are maintained by the Boy Scouts, veteran’s organizations and police stations.

And while you’re at the hardware store, pick up a new flag. Take her home and proudly repost her. By the way, she prefers to be hung high from the eave of your home, not whipped to shreds from the bed of your truck.

But wait. I’m not finished. I ask one more thing.

Let her fly solo. She’s a one-man woman, true only to Uncle Sam.

While she may graciously make room for the MIA flag or your state flag, adding the Christian flag becomes problematic. It begs the question, “Which flag deserves the higher honor?”

I’m only sharing my opinion, not necessarily flag protocol, but I encourage you to remove special interests banners like, Stars and Bars, rainbows, black or blue lives, and political campaign flags.

Celebrate your free speech, but please transplant those single-interest flags to another pole. Old Glory is an attention hog. She prefers to lead the way, not be second fiddle.

When I fly her, it’s all about her. Nothing else.

Those who died serving our country fell under one flag. Today, more than ever, it’s time we stood under one, single individual flag.

You’re probably asking about now, “Who are you to be so demanding? What’s it to ya?”

Allow me to pull rank on this Memorial Day.

I’m the chaplain who has paid his dues.

I was the guy who said the prayer as the flag-draped bodies of fallen heroes were carried onto the plane bringing them home from Iraq. (OIF ’09)

I’m the guy whose Notification Team walked into the driveways of nearly 30 different homes. Under the flapping flag found in most driveways, I watched our commander deliver the words, “Ma’am we regret to inform you …”

I’m the chaplain who stood at attention while the honor guard folded the flag over a hero’s casket.

Who am I to chastise the disrespectful display of the American flag?

I’m the guy who performed the funerals that concluded with a kneeling sergeant presenting a folded flag to grieving parents.

I choked as I heard him say, “On behalf of the president of the United States, the United States Air Force and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your daughter’s honorable and faithful service.”

The flag is important to me. I want it to be important to you. Buy a new flag this weekend and let her fly high and alone.

All sales are final.

My mission is done here.

Chaplain Norris is available to speak to your church, civic or veteran group, hospital, or college. Please email him for details at Norris@thechaplain.net or leave voicemail at 843-608-9715. His past column and his books are available on his website, http://www.thechaplain.net

Buy a new flag this Memorial Day weekend and let her fly high and alone.
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