Letters to the Editor

Flag code: Coming home from Vietnam

Like many of the old hands, I miss some of the formality of the military services from years ago. Dress uniforms or proper civilian attire were the code for off-base travel — even going to and from work. Today I sometimes wince when I run into an officer shopping at the local market in his working uniform.

Formal presentations, particularly when civilian guests and the press were present, were conducted in dress uniform. That is the way it was.

But that’s not the way it is today. Things change. The younger flyer decked out in the American flag on his return from combat may have stretched a few rules. If he hadn’t been so excited about coming home alive to his family he may have taken time to consider the feelings of the small minority of “bureaucratic” types who would be offended by his patriotic display.

But let me tell you this, you self-proclaimed critics and defenders of the flag code; when I returned from a tour in Vietnam in 1968, I was ordered to wear civilian clothes for the trip home. Someone up the chain of command and politics didn’t want a large show of military forces moving in and out of civilian terminals in the United States. Things change.

Given a choice, I’ll take the new Navy with the guy coming home from war wrapped in the flag. His presentation of the colors showed far less disrespect than did my superiors of long ago who ordered me to skulk home in civvies.

Jack McPherson, USN Retired


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