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Sgt. Shaft: Support Sought to Ensure Flag Amendment Passage
Sgt. Shaft: Support Sought to Ensure Flag Amendment Passage


About the Author

Sgt. Shaft was hatched in April of 1982 at the home of the veterans' newspaper, Stars & Stripes, in Washington, D.C. This moniker combines the name of its creator, John Fales, Marine MOS in Vietnam and "Scout Sgt.," with the military expression when wronged, "Shafted."

Sgt. Shaft's wry sense of humor, empathy for the underdog, and strong love of country and fellow veterans closely mirror the nature of its creator. The weekly advice column resided in the Stars & Stripes from 1982 to 1985, and laid dormant until its rebirth in the Washington Times in 1991. The column, Fales is proud to say, gives an outlet for the concerns of active military, veterans, and their families in a national newspaper.

In addition to writing the column, John Fales is President of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. Fales was born in New York City and served in the U.S. Marine Corps until his retirement on disability. His decorations include Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action Ribbon, and South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Sgt. Shaft has no twin.

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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Millions of Americans were very disappointed that the leadership of the Senate in the 108th Congress, after a great victory in the House, failed to have a vote on the flag amendment. That vote would have forced some senators to explain to voters why they ignored the will of 75 percent of their constituents and voted against the right of the people to protect their flag. Why do they respect the will of the majority when it wears black robes, but ignore it when it wears working clothes?

The losers and winners may not agree on many of the campaign issues of the 2004 elections, but many do agree that it was a "V-lettered" election. When the victors made the "V" sign, that sign stood not only for victory, but, in this election, for the source of victory: veterans and values.

Veterans make up 13 percent of the population. But in this election, they made up 18 percent of the vote.

Those numbers are enormous when you consider the margin of victory in many of the campaigns, especially the presidential campaign. Some of the big losers in November's election were supporters of flag burning. For the first time in many years, a sitting minority leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle, was defeated, and a key issue in his defeat was his support of flag burning as speech.

It was not "the economy, stupid," that energized voters; it was values. Veterans and the values they represent determined victory. The flag symbolizes the Constitution, and the legalized desecration of Old Glory does not represent the values, or meaning, of that Constitution. Those who support flag burning as speech would have had a hard sell in the past election.

The values factor has not been lost on the politicians today, and we are seeing a significant change in their rhetoric on issues related to the values of the American people. Many prominent politicians are speaking with a different tone on values. This change in tone is vital for the flag effort and brings us closer to victory.

The flag amendment has been introduced into the 109th Congress. We have never been closer to victory, but our senators and representatives need to hear from us if we are to guarantee it.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady
Chairman of the Board
Citizens Flag Alliance Inc.

Dear Gen. Brady:

As you know, Flag Day was proclaimed by President Wilson in 1916 and is honored in communities nationwide. And flag etiquette states that the U.S. flag always should be treated with the utmost care and respect.

The flag never should be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal. The flag never should be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything. When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object. I wish lawmakers who do not support the patriotic legislation now before Congress, the amendment to protect Old Glory, learn the flag protocol.

And as you, Gen. Brady, have previously written: Most of our gratitude is expressed through symbols. Gravestones, obelisks, walls and the greatest of all symbols, Old Glory. Symbols are indispensable in a democracy and have been called the natural speech of the soul. In their darkest moments, in the midst of the horrifying loneliness of combat, surrounded by noise, fear, fatigue, and the terrifying, unmistakable, indescribable smell of blood, warriors turn to symbols for comfort -- a letter, a photo, a holy medal, a lock of hair.

"And they look to the greatest conqueror of fear and loneliness, the greatest symbol of hope, their constant companion and their supreme inspiration -- Old Glory. It speaks to their soul. No other symbol, nothing, says better: You are not alone. Why? Because our flag symbolizes the Constitution, which was written in their blood.

"The freedom to burn the American flag is not a legacy of our freedoms. Our struggle is symbolic and symbols define us as a people. Is there any symbol in America dearer to more people than the flag" Does any American have anything or anyone who is dear to them that they would not protect" When Old Glory flies, it waves the Constitution before all who see it. We should demand the right to protect the symbol of our Constitution."

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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2005 Sgt. Shaft. All rights reserved.



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