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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: May 10, 2006
Byline: Walter F. Naedele

Banned Marine flag is flying once again

A woman whose son is serving in Iraq is in the midst of a battle back home over an American flag.

On April 28, Catherine Andreacchio, whose son had shipped out for Iraq on March 23, hung a Stars and Stripes — with a U.S. Marine Corps emblem in the center — from the front of her Montgomery Township home.

A few days later, she said, she took it down at the request of the homeowners' association at her development.

The association said she was violating its rules by flying what it calls a "defaced" flag. And the American Legion says it violates the U.S. flag code.

But on Monday, Andreacchio put it back up and sent a three-page, single-spaced letter to the association protesting its opposition to that version of the flag.

"Our most precious resource, the mothers of those we send in harm's way, should be protected from unnecessary trauma at all costs," she wrote.

"Such pain, if necessary, should be inflicted by the enemy without, and never from the enemy within — which may include some American citizens in general and members of our community in particular."

Andreacchio, 45, is the mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony Chonofsky, 20, a 2003 graduate of North Penn High School.

She is a health marketing consultant and lives at Pine Crest, a community of 48 single homes and 270 townhouses bordering the public Pine Crest Golf Course, on Route 202 east of Route 309.

Yesterday, David M. Hurley, 72, who heads the homeowners' association, said, "That flag she's hanging is a defaced flag."

Hurley, a former Air Force officer, said the homeowners' group offered to buy her an American flag and she refused.

She has violated the rules of the homeowners' group, Hurley said, which state that "exterior sculptures, statuary lawn ornaments, bird baths, standing bird feeders, fountains, flags (with exception of the American flag) are prohibited."

At the Indianapolis national headquarters of the American Legion, vice president Michael Buss agreed that a flag with any emblem should not be flown.

Buss cited the U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, subsection 8G, which, he said, states that "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."

But, he said, "there are no civil penalties for violation of the flag code. It's just a breach of flag etiquette."

Buss also said that there have been many states that "have enacted legislation to basically prevent homeowners' associations from prohibiting members from displaying the flag."

In January 2004, then-Gov. Jim McGreevey signed a law in New Jersey stating that local rules can restrict American flags and other patriotic displays only if they threaten public safety.

In 2003, the mayor of Fieldsboro, Burlington County, had banned yellow ribbons on municipal property. Residents responded by draping the town with hundreds of yellow ribbons and other patriotic bunting to show support for the troops in Iraq.

Andreacchio said she first put up a Marine Corps flag, red with white letters, a few days before her son left for Iraq.

"They told me we could only have Stars and Stripes hanging," she said. "I found Stars and Stripes with a Marine Corps emblem in the middle."

She said a board letter arrived May 2 reminding her of its rules.

Asked why she is flying something other than a plain American flag, she said, "I want to honor my son and the military."

At the last meeting of the homeowners' group, Hurley said, the issue was tabled "to see if we could resolve this without exploding to the point it has."

The enforcement process progresses from a warning letter to a second notice with a $25 fine, a third notice with a $50 fine and a fourth with a $100 fine. But Hurley said there has been no previous need for enforcement.

"I believe that when she moved into this community, she should have read the rules and regulations," said Lynn Potts, 68, while gardening at her Pine Crest home yesterday.

Down the street, Richard Fagan, 77, a retired manufacturer's representative, recalled that a neighbor, now deceased, had flown a Marine Corps flag and a POW flag.

But, Fagan noted, "he flew it out off the back deck."

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