Vets Angered Over Obama’s Face on U.S. Flag

An American flag, bearing the image of President Obama,  flying at a local Democratic party headquarters in central Florida angered several military veterans who demanded it be taken down.

Obama’s face was featured prominently in place of the stars section of the flag.

“It’s a cult of personality to show his face, like Stalin or Mao,” John Masterjohn, a former Marine and retired schoolteacher from Leesburg, told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s despicable. They don’t realize how sick they are.”

The flag had been flying for two months before it was spotted by Leesburg veteran Jim Bradford, who took pictures of it and sent them to friends and veterans groups.

“When I saw the picture on the flag, I thought this is wrong,” Bradford said. “I really hate seeing the flag not being respected, and to me this was not respectful.”

He added that the issue wasn’t about politics: “I really don’t care what party it is. If it had been a picture of Romney on the flag, I would have done the same thing.”

A group of veterans went to the office on Tuesday and demanded it be removed or they would take it upon themselves to take it down. They alleged it was in violation of the federal flag code, though altering an American flag isn’t actually a crime.

“For good reason, these folks want to encourage respect for the flag, and while such an alteration may be considered disrespectful, the federal government doesn’t allow penalties against those who disrespect the flag,” said Jim Lake, an adjunct professor at the Stetson University College of Law in Tampa.

The federal flag code is “just standards on how civilians might use the flag,” he added, noting that the Supreme Court has ruled that those who burn or intentionally desecrate the flag are protected by the First Amendment.

Nancy Hurlbert, chairwoman of the local Democratic party, told the group that they could not remove the flag, that it was given as a gift: “We are proud of our president, we’re proud of the United States, and we felt it was time to display that.”

She eventually took the flag down after Don Van Beck, executive director of the Veterans Memorial and a Korean War veteran, read a portion of the federal flag code that the flag “should never have placed upon it or any part of it, any marks, insignia, letters, words, figures, designs, picture or drawings of any nature.”

“If somebody had just called ahead of time, we could have avoided all of this,” Hurlbert said.

Van Beck said he was “sorry it had to come to this. You don’t desecrate the flag, especially for the veterans who fought the wars and died for it. In dictatorships, they have a picture of their dictator on some of the flags, but we haven’t arrived at having a dictator, yet.”

Yet.

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