Skip to comments.A Marine's flag, in ashes
Posted on 10/18/2007 9:01:55 AM PDT by mojito
Flags flew the May day they buried Dale Peterson. They lined the streets of Burns, 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.
He walked back inside and called police.
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?"
As he wrote, his friend, Dennis Canaday, watched, angry. He'd long admired Peterson, who lost his 2000 re-election bid by fewer than 40 votes in part because he refused to campaign. Peterson is now a police training officer for the state.
"What happened to that inner voice that says, 'This guy is grieving, and we should let him be,' " Canaday wondered about the teenagers.
Lance Cpl. Peterson was not an angel, his dad says. But he knew he needed a diploma to get into the Marines. The only boy among three sisters, he worked hard and played hard, trailing behind the father who taught him to fish, hunt and drive a Ford pickup in the open spaces they called "the Last Frontier."
He was 20 and had been in Iraq less than a month when on April 23 his team stopped to investigate a roadside bomb in Anbar province. But another bomb exploded beneath their vehicle, killing Peterson and another Marine.
A day before, the young Peterson e-mailed his dad. The two were at that delicate stage where a man who leaves home and marries -- in this case to fellow Marine Regina Peterson -- begins seeing a parent as a friend.
"I think about him every day," his dad said Wednesday. "I think people pay lip service to our vets and the people who served this country in the military, and it's very frustrating to me."
The teenagers are accused of arson, abuse of venerated objects, reckless burning, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, said Redmond Police Capt. Brian McNaughton, but were "highly upset when they found out who the flag belonged to."
"I don't think they really knew what they were doing; they just did a stupid kid thing, not as any protest or against the United States or authority," McNaughton said. "They just went out and did one and thought it was funny and decided to go find some more and keep doing it."
Redmond High Principal Jon Bullock said all were saddened by the negative attention the incident would bring but "more importantly, the family of Dale Peterson is having to deal with not just the loss of a flag, but all the emotions that go with honoring their son." Bullock said he expects that people will come together and heal.
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who had given Peterson the original flag, has arranged for a replacement.
But flag, or no, Greg Peterson will get up today and think of his son, who as a student at Redmond High wrote: "When I was growing up . . . I didn't like to be led around and told what to do by my peers. If they were going to do something illegal or damaging to a person's feelings or property, I had the willpower to stand up and leave."
BTT. They burned the guy's burial flag but hey, they feel real bad about it so I guess it's OK. Maybe the state should pay for counseling to restore their self-esteem.
Anyone who needs a sarcasm tag on that probably doesn't belong here.
Believe it...after all it is the Waste Coast, where liberal (hate America) indoctrination begins while in the womb for many...
Personally, I believe it. These guys don't sound smart enough to make political gestures. Even with the bar set as low as it is nowadays.
Hopefully, the judge will come up with some creative form of punishment. Painting flagpoles at the local VFW post, for instance.
Maybe they could clean the floors at the local USMC recruiter’s office with a toothbrush. Every weekend for a year. And they ought to go to a couple of Marine funerals, maybe a tour of boot camp, a visit to Walter Reed.
Speechless . . .
I vote we bring back public flogging.
They should get the old choice from the 1960s. Enlist in the Marines, or go to prison. The Marines have made productive citizens out of more than one delinquent.
Or maybe they they should put fresh flowers on every grave in Arlington.
Why isn’t THIS a hate crime?
Heck, 15 minutes with your average, run-of-the-mill drill instructor would be a life changing event for these boys. Perhaps a little size 12 motivation, properly applied....
I think Marine Corps boot camp in lieu of a short prison sentence would be appropriate. Scum bags (parents included)
This would end most vandalism in a matter of weeks. Flog a few wiseacre kids in public, and word will get around. Do it in every state, every city, every town. Suddenly the little bastages will start to behave.
Thank you for posting. What a great story. Of course the libs dont care that these are real people with feelings. At least this reporter got the story right. I do believe that this wasnt just a prank but kids from leftist households who went out to make a statement. They knew what they were doing and they knew the message that they wanted to send.
I don't think that they do that anymore. More's the pity for it.
Just out of idle curiosity, I wonder how many of these boys come from single-parent homes. If I had pulled a stunt like this and gotten caught, my Dad would have worn his belt out on me.
I did plenty of stupid things when I was a kid. Not this, specifically, but other things that were pretty dumb. Perhaps I'm naive, but I think that - with the proper motivation - these boys aren't lost causes.
Now, if they get a liberal judge who pats them on the head and says "It's OK because George Bush is a Nazi"....then all bets are off.
Restitution to the homeowners is a start. A little sweat equity put in with the local Armed Forces posts might be a better idea.
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