Broad stripes and bright stars

Giving the red, white and blue its proper due

A wide range of people are accused of being culprits: A contestant on the nationally televised program, "Deal or No Deal," protesters in the United States and abroad, and performer Kid Rock during the 2004 Super Bowl.

Even President George W. Bush, believed to have committed the faux pas at least twice in the last four years, has gotten in on the act.

Mishandling, desecrating or violating the code of the American flag dates back to the Civil War, and for at least one Confederate soldier, prompted a penalty as harsh as the death sentence.

Today, there is no punishment for violating flag etiquette, and flag desecration is considered free speech, protected under the First Amendment in the Constitution.

Still, it is a hot button, debated and controversial issue.

To some, desecrating the flag is a symbolic act of protesting government policies, both foreign and domestic. To others, the act runs parallel to American values such as freedom of expression.

To Craig resident and veteran Bill Harding, the lack of respect shown to the flag is a shame and representative of a culture straying from its core values. Harding, a Vietnam veteran and member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, has seen respect for the flag slowly erode throughout the decades.

"A general opinion is yes, we've lost the tradition and respect for the flag," he said. "Even to the point of people not standing up (before the flag) in a parade."

His frustration bubbled up in May 2006 when he wrote a letter to the Daily Press editor, signed by himself and VFW and American Legion members, chastising many community members for failing to give the American flag its proper due during the Grand Olde West Days parade.

Harding, who served a tour in Vietnam with the Navy, said improper flag etiquette or disrespect is disappointing to veterans and their families who sacrificed for the country.

"I think most veterans that have served, every time the Star Spangled Banner is played there is a feeling of emotion or a tear," Harding said as an example of veterans' patriotism.

However, not all is lost, at least not locally.

The Craig Rotary Club, a group comprised of about 25 members, is tackling a project to ensure the red, white and blue -- and those who have defended it -- gets its due on holidays throughout the year.

On Thursday, club president Randy Looper mailed out 325 letters to Moffat County businesses asking that they contribute $75 this year toward the purchase of American flags. The flags will be placed along Yampa Avenue and Victory Way on seven holidays.

The Rotary Club is seeking enough money to purchase 100 flags. Ideally, the flags would be spaced every 20 to 25 feet from Fourth to Sixth streets on Yampa and as far on Victory Way as the flag supply would allow.

"We want it to look really cool and uniform," Looper said. "We'd like to see flags from one end to the other, all the way throughout town."

A local youth who was an Eagle Scout formerly placed flags throughout the city's main arteries on holidays, but after he left for college, the tradition ended. There was a noticeable void, Looper said.

The Rotary Club's project is an attempt to give America its due and breathe life back into a dormant tradition.

"Basically, it's a patriotic thing," Looper said. "And it's nice to look at coming into town. It's a great way to respect the flag, veterans, the community and bring the town together."

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