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Mayor pushes flag amendment at Flag Day ceremony

June 15, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

by JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

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Flag Day amendment

Sandwiched between Memorial Day in May and Independence Day in July, Flag Day gets shortchanged.

That's something Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II would like to change. Bruchey, who presided over a small ceremony Sunday at Public Square, said Flag Day ought to inspire the same deference other national holidays do.

"It's a Sunday and I know people have things to do," he said. "But the people who showed up here today also had things to do, and they still showed."

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About 15 people attended the Flag Day ceremony, which was marked by performances by the Hagerstown Municipal Band and the Hagerstown Police Department's honor guard.

Bruchey and other speakers used Sunday's ceremony to highlight their support for a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration. Supporters of the measure have pushed for the amendment since the Supreme Court struck down state and federal laws against flag-burning in 1989 and 1990.

The House of Representatives last year passed an amendment and a similar resolution is pending in the Senate.

Bruchey read the text of the First Amendment and said he supports Americans' right to free speech.

"What I do not believe in is a right to desecrate our national symbol," said Bruchey, his voice rising with emotion. "That's the same flag that Neil Armstrong planted on the barren moon the same flag I watch in disgust as protesters in Iraq burn and spit on."

Bruchey said he thought of the flag during last month's funeral honoring Joseph Kroboth Jr., a fire police officer who was fatally struck by a truck at the scene of another accident. He said the flag is more than a national symbol, but a "symbol of respect, love and honor."

Ray S. Linebaugh, secretary of the Washington County Joint Veterans Council, said veterans fought too hard to see OId Glory burned and stomped on.

"All of us need to band together and fight this flag desecration," he said. "It is not a figure of speech."

Added Jim Sprecher, the organization's president: "We salute it. We fought under it. It's a darn shame they can't do anything about people who desecrate it."

Opponents of a flag desecration amendment have argued that it is dangerous to tinker with the Constitution and that an amendment might lead to bans on other forms of speech as well.

But veterans and politicians on Sunday were mainly preaching to the choir.

Maugansville resident Adriel Keener, 71, said he and his wife came on Sunday to show their support for their country and their flag.

"We like to be patriotic. And this flag business really disturbs me," said Keener, whose U.S. Army unit was the first to enter a Nazi concentration camp in Germany during World War II.

"I can't understand why our Congresspeople let people burn the flag and drag it all over the floor," he said.

Miss Maryland Jaime Fox, making her next-to-last official appearance before turning her crown over to the new Miss Maryland, delivered an a capella rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Fox, 21, has spent the last year touring the state promoting veterans' rights and Americanism.

"If you're not around veterans or you're not patriotic, you don't even know when Flag Day is," she said. "A lot of people don't even know there is a Flag Day."

Ed Dorsey, a member of the Maryland Scholarship Organization, who attended the ceremony, said it was different than some of Fox's other appearances, given her platform.

"This one's more special," he said.

"It's kind of a perfect send-off," said Jodi Colombo, who is also on the Maryland Scholarship Organization's executive board.

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