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Source: Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho)
Date: September 11, 2006
Byline: Cassidy Friedman

Honor your flag

Two patriots have different ways of loving flag

TWIN FALLS — Two military men living on opposite sides of Eighth Avenue N. were raised to cherish the American flag.

They both own flags that remind them of a rich patriotic heritage rooted in family history.

With the exception of the 18 months he spent patrolling in Iraq, Jud Harmon takes down his flag every evening at sunset from the left side of his front entrance and leaves hanging a San Francisco 49ers flag to its right. If the American flag touches the ground, frays, gets sprinkled by water or shows any signs of deterioration he immediately retires it. Failing once to meet a criterion, his wife unwittingly touched a nerve.

"He had to teach me flag etiquette," Tamara, his wife, said. "He's always sensitive about that."

Across the street a Vietnam veteran flies a less-than-coddled flag. Until a neighbor wrote a letter to the Times-News criticizing his treatment of the flag, he displayed his grandfather's tattered 4-by-5 stitched-cotton heirloom from World War II.

"These new ones, they'll bleach-out in a heartbeat," said Brian Bradshaw. "But I didn't like it out there tattered either."

He took it to the Veteran's Administration where it was burned according to code.

Both patriots adore their flag. One through strict adherence to governing rules; the other through raw sentimentality. For Harmon and Bradshaw the flag is loaded with connotations of tradition, heritage and cultural pride. Outside of how they ritualize the flag, their thoughts and opinions sound strikingly congruent. To both the flag means a sense of home and national identity.

The flag form and treatment issue arises in the national media whenever someone — knowingly or unknowingly — violates the rules. Most recently in April, protesters in Costa Mesa, Calif. waved an upside-down flag — a violation of U.S. Code., which states: "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."

Even President George W. Bush violated the rules after autographing a small American flag handed to him while in a public venue. The Flag Code states: "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."

Claiming the infraction was an attempt at desecration would seem overstated. But it is a mistake Jud Harmon would never make.

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