On Friday, I went out and bought flags. It’s a family tradition. My parents always line the the perimeter of their yard with American flags on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

It’s been so long since I had a home in America with a lawn…I was excited to plant the flags along the perimeter of my yard in my new town, Meadville, Pa.

I woke up early today and discovered someone–or several people–had taken the flags and staked them upside down. A couple were broken and a couple were lying on the ground.

I thought it was odd. If it were a prank or an accident, I imagine the pranksters or drunks would have knocked down the flags or taken them. To turn them upside down and stake them in the ground, that takes some reflection, time and energy.

The only reason I know to fly a flag upside down is as a sign of distress. Here’s a link to the first response to a Google search with the words “upside down flag.” No surprise there. As I thought, “an upside down flag is an official signal of distress.”

However, all the references that follow point to a recent trend of people displaying upside down flags as a protest of the election results or as a sign of disrespect for the president.

Here are a few links:

An opinion in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, serving a city just 90 miles south. The opinion writer calls the current protest practice “repulsive.”

It is disappointing to me that big-government/free spending/expanding entitlement society/cradle-to-grave care President Barack Obama was re-elected, but as one who respects the office of the president, I am repulsed that some small-minded individuals/haters have chosen to fly our treasured American flag upside down in protest. by Oren M. Spiegler in Upper St. Clair.

Then there was a link to a story about a MacDonald’s in Follansbee, West Virginia that was flying a flag upside down at half-mast.

“To me it’s about the flag,” said Chris Cipriani, who told the news station he would no longer patronize the restaurant. “Regardless of who you are for, you don’t desecrate the flag.”

Lou Headman, a veteran, said, “I think that’s a stab at us. It doesn’t make sense why anyone would want to do that. That’s a distress signal and maybe they didn’t know that, but we know that.”

Headman told the station he believes the display was a mistake and he will continue to dine at the restaurant.

The owner states in the story that it was a mistake and the flag was removed.

And, again, from a story posted on the CBS Pittsburgh website, the upside-down-flag protest is cited.

“The flag is flown upside down in times of distress,” said Clark Rogers, the acting director of the National Flag Foundation.

Rogers says to fly it in protest risks angering veterans.

“No question about that, veterans are very tender about that flag,” he says. “They fought for that flag; their buddies sacrificed for the flag.”

The story also mentions veterans who are flying the flag as a sign of distress to protest the re-election of President Obama.

I put the flags out to honor veterans and to observe Veterans Day. To remember the men on both sides of my family who have served in combat since WWII. I also wanted to remember the soldiers–men and women–with the 1st Battalion 5th Infantry Regiment 1/25 Styrker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, with whom I spent two months as an embedded journalist.

My neighbors rallied when they heard the news.

“That doesn’t happen around here,” they said.

I have a neighbor who’s a Vietnam vet who’s been flying a P.O.W./M.I.A. flag on his front porch since he returned and his buddies didn’t. I have another neighbor who’s sister is serving in the Middle East. Another neighbor who has two children serving now.

My neighbor, the Vietnam vet, told his wife he keep a lookout tonight.

Tonight I bought more flags.

If I wake tomorrow morning, on Veterans Day, and find more flags have been damaged or “distressed,” I will unfold the new flags and stake them in place.

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