Many men and women that spend time in the military fighting for the freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
My dad is one of those men. He enlisted in the US Navy in 1940 and was discharged in 1946. He spent the majority of World War II in the Pacific theater. He was at the battles of Saipan, Midway and Bougainville among others. Although he was an enlisted man, he had a good relationship with the captain of his ship. Dad operated the captain’s skip better than anyone else could do.
After World War II was over, they ended up mothballing his ship. In the process of dismantling as much of the ship as possible, the captain presented dad with one of the ship’s flags. This particular flag flew high on the ship’s tower at the battles of Saipan and Bougainville. That flag meant the world to my dad and he flew it proudly until the flag’s condition prevented it. He still kept the flag and now I have it.
I recall an incident in the late 1960’s when dad was flying the ship’s flag for the Fourth of July weekend. The next thing we knew, a county sheriff knocked on the door. A neighbor had called them to report the flying of an illegal flag because it had only 48 stars. When dad explained the history of the flag to the deputy, he told Dad to fly his flag proudly for as long as he wanted. The deputy then told us that he was going to talk to the neighbor and tell him to mind his own d--n business.
Remembering that incident, I understand how Gregory Schaffer of Hypoluxo, Florida, felt. Schaffer had served in Iraq with the US Marine Corps. After getting out of the Marines, Schaffer erected a flag pole in the front of the house he was renting and proudly flew an American flag. Evidently Schaffer had a neighbor just like we had who called the city to complain and Schaffer ended up being cited.
He wasn’t flying an illegal flag, it turns out that he had not obtained a building permit, which the city says is necessary. According to a building official with the city, they consider a flagpole to be a structure, much like a house, shed, etc. Schaffer was ordered to take down the flagpole or obtain a building permit. Since he rents the home, he would have to use a third party such as a licensed contractor to apply for the permit at cost of close to $1,000.
Tim Large, a city building official said that he sympathizes with Schaffer and although residents normally have 30 days to comply, he will work with Schaffer and give him longer to comply with the building code.
Believe it or not, Schaffer is not upset with the neighbor that lodged the complaint because he realizes that the freedom to complain is one of the freedoms he fought for. Schaffer explained:
"I respect their right to be able to file a complaint and handle things the way they did. Do I respect what they did? No, I respect their ability to do so."
I’m not so sure I would have been so forgiving. For one thing, I have a serious problem with anyone that complains about someone legally flying an American flag. I would question their patriotism and possibly suggest they find a country whose flag they approve of. As for the building code, I don’t consider a flagpole as a structure or that it was subject to an expensive building permit. If I were Schaffer, I would be sorely tempted to challenge the legality of such a building code and posit that it is nothing more than a money making scheme for the city.