FLYING "OLD GLORY" ?
The next flag pole flap in South Carolina?
Dear Private Jackson:
Every single day of my life I say to you, ďI am so very sorry. You have no idea how proud I am of youĒ.
It was almost 35 years ago that our paths first crossed. As you remember, we chatted with each other on that long flight to Vietnam. We were both young men when we boarded that Pam Am Jet, and we were scared to death. Though we had both volunteered for service in Vietnam, neither of us knew what to expect. Nonetheless, we were proud. As patriotic Americans, we were ready to serve our country and prepared to defend freedom in a strange land with unusual customs.
Unfortunately, soon after we arrived in Saigon our paths separated. We each went to perform a mission with different units. During the days and weeks which followed, I often thought about you. The next time that I saw you was on a military transport plane. It was heart wrenching when I picked up the tag on that flag draped casket and found out that it was you. You were on your final journey to Arlington National Cemetery, where your grieving family would bid you farewell with honor and dignity. A bullet from an enemy AK 47 had penetrated your chest, and you died from a sucking chest wound. I am so very sorry. And you have no idea how proud I am of you.
As you know, I was fortunate to return from the conflict, with wounds which only pale in comparison to yours. Yet, to this very day, shrapnel dislodges itself from the inner parts of my body and works its way to the surface. I, however, was lucky enough to survive the rocket attack and was not called upon to make the supreme sacrifice. My wounds caused me to shed a little blood; yours were fatal. I am so very sorry, and you have no idea how proud I am of you.
A lot has taken place since that dreadful year. Most recently my wife and I moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We had dreamed of building a home here for several years before actually starting. It was so much fun making all of the plans and then watching them fall into place. We now live in a beautiful home in a gorgeous community. As our dreams became reality, we had another plan in place: one which would prominently place a flagpole with an American flag in our front yard. It was to be set amidst some beautiful shrubbery, and would be the focal point of our property. We couldnít wait to pull the lanyards and raise Old Glory to high heights. This would be our tribute to you, and to the hundreds of thousands of other Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who gave their lives in the defense of freedom. We looked forward, with pride, to the moment when we could render appropriate honors to you by both raising the flag and lowering it, when required, to half-staff.
Unfortunately, Private Jackson, we were denied that privilege. Isnít that hard to believe that an American Citizen is denied the right to fly a flag on a flagpole on his own property? We were told that we could fly a flag on our garage or off a fence to the back of our property. That way it would not be too obtrusive. However, we could not honor you by flying the flag on a flagpole, from which it could blow with the breezes of the day and hang with pride under subtle illumination at night. Imagine, after all that you gave for the people of our community, our nation and our world that some would be afraid that the display of our national symbol on a flagpole might detract from the pristine look of our community. Can you believe that some would fear that allowing an American Flag to fly on a pole would be a prelude to the disintegration of all community regulations and covenants, with the intrusion of clotheslines and cheap sheds soon to follow? Such fears negate everything for which you gave your life. We are allowed to install fences, trellises, statues, gigantic inflated snowmen at Christmas and massive pumpkins at Halloween. Posts and lights can sit on the front of our properties. Unsightly utility boxes appear throughout our beautiful neighborhood, in many locations with no pretense of hiding them. Pick-up trucks often remain in driveways, day and night. I am not criticizing any of these things. However, when you put it in perspective, it seems to me that a flagpole, flying a beautiful American Flag, honors both you and the community. It is a travesty and capricious to withhold this basic American right. I must be missing something, Private Jackson. Iím so very sorry. And you have no idea how proud I am of you.
Well, comrade, there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that South Carolina passed a new law in July of this year. Like similar legislation in several other great States, it prohibits a homeownerís association from blocking a property owner from flying a portable, respectfully displayed flag. So on November 11th, Veteranís Day, my wife and I erected the flagpole and flag of which we had dreamed. We finally got to honor you, and flew the flag front and center. You would be so proud.
The bad news is that the Legends Homeowners Association does not believe that the SC law applies. It still believes that it has the right to prohibit the flag from being respectfully flown from a flagpole. We were directed to remove the flagpole and flag or be fined, but we have not succumbed to the pressure, threats and condemnation of a few community residents. Consequently, Private Jackson, we are currently being assessed a $25 per day fine. Isnít that insane? You didnít have the choice of remaining in the rear. You had to walk point, out in front of the entire platoon. Thatís why you caught the bullet. Yet in America, the ďland of the free and the home of the braveĒ, our national flag canít be respectfully flown, in many communities, from high upon a flagpole. Itís absolutely crazy! You gave your life for the liberties which that flag represents, but I canít honor you by flying it high on a flagpole in my very own yard. Iím so very sorry, Private Jackson. And you have no idea how proud I am of you.
This is a sad day in America, and I apologize to you. You gave so much. I am embarrassed that some folks in the Legends, in Myrtle Beach, in South Carolina and in America, are so protective of their communities that they can no longer respect the right of an American Citizen to proudly display the flag as it was intended to be flownóon a flagpole.
Once again, Private, you and I proceed into battle with fear and apprehension. The only difference is that this time the battlefield is at home. All of us know that it is not likely to be an easy battle, but like in Vietnam, we go with strong resolve.
Iím so sorry. But I am very, very proud of you, and we will honor you.
With Eternal Gratitude,
Roger W. Johnson
Once again, a Grand Stand resident has clashed with his community over flying the U.S. flag in his yard.
But this time it is the flagpole, not the flag itself, that is at issue.
In a North Myrtle Beach case earlier this year that attracted national attention, a homeowners' association told a resident to remove a flag from his home. That case resulted in a state law being passed that forbids communities from banning portable displays of Old Glory.
Now The Legends community is telling Roger Johnson that he can fly his flag from his house, garage or fence, but he can't have a flagpole. Since Dec. 11, he has been fined $ 25 a day. It is unclear whether the state law covers this case.
Community and homeowners associations are certainly entitled to have their rules; most are intended to keep up the neighborhood's appearance and value for all residents.
Here's hoping the community will change its stance. With the numbers of people displaying tattered flags improperly these days, it would be refreshing to see a flag flying high , treated with respect and honor.