EDITORIAL Wrapped in flag, our flyer is home

One lieutenant based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station raised a few military eyebrows Friday when he spiced up his homecoming from Afghanistan by wrapping himself in the U.S. flag.

The lieutenant serves with Electronic Attack Squadron 135, which consists of four EA-6A Prowlers. They were among the first brave souls to see action in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The lieutenant in question, wrapped from head to waist in the flag, made a colorful sight when he rushed to greet his girlfriend on the tarmac at NAS Whidbey. It was an exuberant display of patriotism and delight at being back in the U.S.A. The image was captured by newspapers and television photographers both locally and regionally.

Critics may huff that the lieutenant broke the rules of flag etiquette, which indeed he did. The rules state in black and white that the flag is not to be worn. An Internet visit to the “Betsy Ross Home Page” cites the following rule: “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel . . . never be festooned . . . drawn back . . . nor up in folds, but always allowed to fall free.”

To which we respond, so what? The military may have its own, stricter standards, but the U.S. Flag Rules and Regulations were made “for the use of such civilians or civilian groups or organizations as may be required to conform with regulations.” The general public appears to have some leeway. If the lieutenant broke some military rule, no doubt he has been so apprised by a superior officer. But the public took no offense by his show of patriotism. Indeed, they applaud it.

Since Sept. 11, we have all witnessed numerous technical violations of flag etiquette. People everywhere have been draped in flags, have handled them improperly, and displayed them improperly on their vehicles and outside their homes and businesses. But they do so out of love of country rather than an intent to break some rule.

In recent months we have witnessed a wave of patriotism unseen in the U.S. since World War II. People are waving and wearing the flag with love, pride and patriotism. Instead of complaining about it, we should relish this new patriotism and resulting support for our men and women in uniform. It’s great, whether or not it follows proper etiquette.

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