Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

This past weekend, as I rushed from parades and picnics all across our district, I was reminded of how good it feels to be an American – particularly a Texan-American.  Because you see, it seems to me that in Texas we do things, like the Fourth of July, up right.  We just seem to sing a little louder, cook a little better and waive our flag a little prouder.

As I paraded down the street lined with folks decked out in red, white and blue, and kids perched above the crowd waiving countless American flags, I couldn’t help but think about how our freedom is sewn in every stitch of the red, white and blue threads that make up Old Glory and how it will always be something worth fighting for. 

One such person that understands that better than most is Debbie McLucas.  Debbie works at Kindred Hospital in Mansfield, Texas. She comes from a very patriotic family. Her husband and both of her sons served in the United States military. Her daughter is a combat medic and is currently deployed on her second tour of duty in Iraq.

When Debbie arrived at work the Friday before Memorial Day, her American flag was gone from her hospital work space. She had displayed it in honor of Memorial Day and in honor of our troops.  Debbie claims she was met by her supervisor and was told that there had been complaints about the American flag. An immigrant coworker had complained that the American flag was offensive, so the flag was taken down by management. Debbie says she found her flag wrapped around the pole and laying on the floor in the corner of her supervisor's office.

Debbie McLucas said in an interview that one of her colleagues complained to the supervisor. Debbie was then told by management that it only took one complaint, and the so-called “offensive'' flag had to come down immediately. Debbie told her supervisor that she was offended that somebody removed the flag. She said she could not fathom that anyone in America would find the American flag objectionable.

As soon as this episode hit the news wires, there was outrage from sea to shining sea and rightfully so. After all, it appeared Debbie's freedom of speech to display the flag was stolen by the hospital elites because one person whined and griped. The hospital has since stated that the dispute was over the size of the flag, not the display.  My guess, the supervisor wasn’t from Texas and didn’t understand that things are just bigger here.  So, let me tell you about how some other Texan-Americans that appreciate the flag in a big way as well.

Several years ago during the Vietnam War, a university student in Houston, Texas, had desecrated the American flag. He was charged under Texas law with the felony of flag desecration. That was before the Supreme Court gave peaceniks the right to burn the flag, saying it was free speech, but that’s another story for another day.  Anyway, two young prosecutors named Vic Pecorino, now Humble City Judge, and Andy Horn, a recent returning Vietnam veteran, had to prove to the jury that the flag was, in legal terms, a venerated object, or one that deserves special treatment.

After proving the case, except for this one requirement, the State called Chris Cole, a judge, to prove that the flag had to be treated in a respectful manner. He came in to testify, accompanied by his seeing-eye dog. Judge Cole was a Marine in World War II. He was involved in the bloody island hopping of the South Pacific. During the flag trial, he was asked by the prosecutors when the last time was he saw the U.S. flag.

He paused, and with a tearful response, he said, “the last time I saw the flag it was raised on Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima Island in 1945.” You see, several days later, Judge Chris Cole had a Japanese hand grenade explode near him and he permanently lost the sight in both eyes. He never saw Old Glory again.

In the flag trial, the defendant was convicted by the jury because they thought, as Judge Cole testified, that the flag holds special significance to Americans; but the law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

There are a lot of Americans, especially those who serve in the military, who hold the view that the flag represents everything that is good and right about our nation and that it is their right to display the flag.

Each morning, Members of Congress pledge allegiance to the flag as do schoolchildren across the vast plains of America. Obviously, Debbie McLucas is another one of those Americans who respects the values that the flag represents, and she wishes to proudly display it. Debbie McLucas should be praised for exercising her constitutional right of freedom of speech by displaying America's flag.

So, in her honor and to honor her military family, I had an American flag be flown over the United States Capitol on Saturday, June 6, on the 65th anniversary of the D-day landing of Normandy during World War II. The flag was sent to this American lady in appreciation of her patriotic spirit, of her loyalty to American warriors and to the American flag. May she display it proudly.

I am proud to be an American.  And this past weekend, as I saw thousands of people singing the Star Spangled Banner and proudly waiving their flags, I was reminded of how proudly we hail. 

And that's just the way it is.