Thursday, October 18, 2007

" A Marine's flag, in ashes"

From today's Oregonian newspaper:

Flags flew the May day they buried Dale Peterson. They lined the streets of Burns,Oregon where hundreds watched, hands on hearts, as his coffin passed. One flag, in particular, made it to Dale's dad.

Greg Peterson, former sheriff of Harney County, went home to Redmond and hung the flag beside his front door. And there it flew, day and night, for the toddler he carried on his back into the Blue Mountains, for the boy he taught to fish the Malheur River, for the only son he sent to Iraq.

Sunday morning, as Greg Peterson left for church, he found the flag. Someone had torn it down, drenched it in lighter fluid and burned it. Ashes and the charred wooden flagpole lay scattered. "This was personal," he thought. Flags at nine other Redmond homes had also been torched overnight. A video camera at one home captured images of the culprits. On Tuesday, police arrested four teenagers, including three 17-year-old students at Redmond High School where Dale Peterson graduated in 2005.

That night, Greg Peterson sat at a friend's desk in Coos Bay where he traveled this week to train police officers. And in an open letter he began to type:

"I want you to know what that flag meant to me . . ."

"The flag you burned had flown over the United States Capitol. It was one of my son's goals to be a United States Marine. He put a lot of effort into it and graduated top of his class as a combat engineer. He also shot as an expert and his PT (physical training) score was 290. I am very proud of my son but words cannot express the sorrow I feel from his death. Dale, like most men and women in our armed services, had the courage to put his life on the line for our country.

"I ask myself, what courage do you have, and your reason for burning our country's flag?"

I am at a loss for words that such a thing could happen in the country I love.

( To read the rest of the news story click on the title for a link)