COURTESY OF THE HOE FAMILY
Nainoa Hoe, second from right, stands with members of the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade. Hoe, who was killed by a sniper in Iraq in January 2005, died carrying the American flag in the photo. His father, Allen Hoe, carried the same flag in Vietnam and afterward in memory of a missing lieutenant. CLICK FOR LARGE
Capitol flag treatment concerns observer
FLAG DAY: BANNER COMMANDS RESPECT
Flag Day should be every day, says Daniel de Gracia II.
"The American flag is something that we should honor all the time," said de Gracia, a pastor at International Christian Church.
That's why he complained to Gov. Linda Lingle last month about state sheriffs lowering the flag at the state Capitol and rolling it into a ball.
It's disrespectful to the American flag, especially at the seat of state government, where everyone is watching, de Gracia said. He prefers that the flag be folded at the base of the flagpole.
Officials responded that their treatment of the flag met federal rules.
"While this method may not reach the level of a ceremonial lowering of the flags, it is with the protocols established in United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1 -- The Flag," Lingle responded in a letter to de Gracia.
Lingle's letter also said the Capitol building's U.S. flag measures 10 feet by 19 feet, making it difficult to handle during windy weather. Sheriffs take the flag down to the chamber level and properly fold it there without letting it touch the ground.
While others may not know about de Gracia's complaint, many agree with the symbolism and importance of the U.S. flag.
In 1949, Congress designated June 14 as Flag Day to honor the U.S. flag, which has undergone many changes since the circle of 13 stars.
"The symbolism is so powerful to veterans," said Luis Parker, president of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. "I remember it every day. I have a flag hanging by my garage every day."
Parker, a Vietnam War veteran, considers it an honor to hang his flag and said it's "one of those freedoms that I have."
For Allen Hoe, his connection to an American flag goes back to Vietnam almost 40 years ago.
PROPER FLAG ETIQUETTE
Here are some rules for addressing the U.S. flag as described in the United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1 -- The Flag:
» The flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset only, but can be displayed 24 hours a day if illuminated at night.
» The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
» The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise.
» The flag should never be used as wearing apparel.
» During hoisting or lowering of the flag, all those present, except those in uniform, should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart.
Hoe was a medic during the Vietnam War and kept the flag for his platoon. After the war, he kept the flag in memory of a lieutenant who was missing in action.
In 2005, Hoe's son, Nainoa Hoe, was carrying the flag in Iraq in honor of his father's troop when he was killed by a sniper.
Now, the older Hoe keeps the flag in a cabinet in his Honolulu law office.
"In terms of symbols, especially now, it (the flag) should represent and remind us at the end of the day what this great country is about," Hoe said. "Guys have given up their lives merely to protect the flag, this symbol of who we are."
Fred Ballard, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said the flag code describes how the U.S. flag should be displayed in public and is sometimes interpreted differently.
Indeed, Norbert Enos, Hawaii state adjutant/quartermaster for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, believes the state should fold the U.S. flag at the flagpole at the Capitol.
"They should go through the motions because they are being observed by the public," he said. It might take six people to do it, but the state should show respect for the flag, he said.
Ballard disagreed, saying it's OK for a large flag to be rolled if done respectfully. He is more concerned that citizens are losing respect for the flag as described in the U.S. flag code, such as raising the right hand to the heart during the national anthem.
"It's kind of sad because the flag represents so much," he said. "It's the country's flag, not just the veteran's flag. It belongs to everyone in America. It should mean a lot to everybody."
For de Gracia, after seeing the sheriffs rolling the U.S. flag, he said, "It really breaks my heart.
"I don't want people to look at the flag and say that's just a piece of cloth. If we're going to do something we have to do it right, especially at the state Capitol, where everybody is looking up to us."