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.
As we near a Senate vote on the flag amendment, which passed the House for the sixth time June 22, the hysteria in the media runs wild. They fear it could pass and in their frenzy they distort the facts. From recent radio and TV interviews it is clear to me that many of them have not read the amendment and do not understand its purpose or impact.
Tragically, they mislead their audience and are blatantly unfair to the truth.
Many in the media support flag desecration as free "expression." One need only think of the many types of expression to know why the founders wisely eschewed that word. Some, in desperation to fit their objections into the First Amendment, use the word "speech" in contradiction of the dictionary and in defiance to reason.
Sixteen years ago 90 senators voted for a statute to protect the flag after the Supreme Court, in Texas v. Johnson, took that right away. Those senators could not have so voted if they believed flag desecration was constitutionally protected speech. Three of four Americans, all 50 states and over 70 percent of the Congress agree that desecrating the flag is not speech.
Critics say the amendment protects the flag and changes the Bill of Rights. It does neither, and this is important to understand.
The flag amendment says: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." An amendment, of itself, does not protect the flag. It simply takes control over the flag away from the courts and returns it to the people where it resided until 1989. Once the amendment is ratified, and only then, can a law be passed to protect the flag.
This point is fundamental for those senators who seek a statute to protect Old Glory. They can have a statute, but only after an amendment is ratified by the people.
As for changing the Bill of Rights, consider this. By judicial fiat, with a single vote from one Supreme Court justice, flag desecration was inserted into the Bill of Rights. If you deny this, then answer this question: If the court had declared that flag burning was not speech, would they then have amended the Bill of Rights?
One pundit feared the amendment would curtail the rights of those who hate us. There are no laws against hating, but there are laws against hateful conduct. Flag burning fits both roles. But this is about rights: the right of the people to protect their flag, the right of the majority to rule, the right of the people to define their Constitution. And beyond the flag, this issue spills over into the right to protect our children from pornography, the right to own property, to pray, to post the Ten Commandments, and to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
If we can recapture our flag, we will have begun a march to recapture our Constitution.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady,
Chairman, Citizens Flag Alliance
Dear Gen. Brady:
The following letter is from one of the more than 80 percent of Americans who wholeheartedly agree with you. As you will see, this young man, like so many other Americans, is willing to put himself on the line to preserve the sacred symbol of our country, Old Glory.
Dear Sgt. Shaft:
My name is Spc. Jake P. I am currently serving on active duty in the Army. My unit Alpha Co. 1-9 Infantry is currently finishing up our year in Iraq.
I recently read the article about the polls being taken about making it illegal to desecrate the flag. It always gets me steamed to see people burning it and then hiding behind the First Amendment. I have never seen someone desecrate my flag in person and I hope I don't.
My father served in Vietnam from '69 to '70. My grandfather served in the South Pacific during World War II. I have watched footage of people burning the flag with both of them and I think I have seen looks that would kill from them.
It should be a capital offense to desecrate the flag. If these people think it is so bad at home, then they should go live in Iraq or Afghanistan for a year. They would be trying to get back to America in less than a day. I am a firm believer in the saying "If you don't love it, leave it." I would gladly lose my rank and much, much more to protect that flag from being burned by its own citizens.
It's true the First Amendment provides a lot of freedoms we enjoy in our great country, but desecration of the flag should not be one of them. For more than 200 years, men have fought and died for that flag and the freedoms it represents. Let's show it the respect it deserves. If you are burning my flag, you are spitting on all those who have fought for it and those who are still fighting for it. We can only hope that the higher-ups will do something about it.
Spc. Jake P.
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