Know the true history, meaning behind flag’s symbols

(Editor’s Note: Viewpoint submissions on this and other topics are always welcome as part of our goal to encourage community discussion and exchange of perspectives.)

Nov. 28, 2018 — In the Nov. 24 edition of the Siuslaw News, a Letter to the Editor was published which included inaccurate and false statements.

Gene Olson’s letter (“Don’t Drag Disrespectful Symbols Into  Veterans Parade”) in reference to the flag I have on my military jeep, the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, was described as “insensitive and inappropriate.”

Olson’s lack of knowledge concerning the history of this flag has presented a totally false description of the background behind this flag.

Its long and distinguished history goes back to the colonial days of our nation. In the fall of 1775, the Continental Navy created the “first U.S. Navy Jack” and has traditionally been shown as consisting of 13 horizontal alternating red and white stripes with a superimposed rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.”

The rattlesnake had long been a symbol of resistance to British repressive acts in Colonial America.

In August 1977, the Secretary of the Navy specified that the ship with the longest total period of active service display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive service, at which time the flag shall be passed to the next ship in line with appropriate honor.

On May 22, 2002, the U.S. Navy ordered all ships to display the First Navy Jack during the War on Terrorism. Currently the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) has the honor of flying the First Navy Jack.

As recently as last January, the U.S. Navy hoisted the First Navy Jack under Old Glory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to honor the 17 shipmates we lost on USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56).

It represents a historical reminder that our warfighting edge is not only back but renewed and forged with purpose.

To describe this symbol of our rich American history as “divisive, disrespectful and generally offensive” shows a total lack of knowledge of our American traditions.

Once again, false and misguided information is promulgated by “do

gooders” who add to the false narrative and spread half truths and misrepresentations without researching the full facts.

I will continue to display this “First Navy Jack” on my military jeep as a symbol of the respect I hold for all the men and women who have honorably served in the armed forces of our great nation.

I hope Mr. Olson will find some positive way to express his good fortune to live in a country where you have the right and freedom to express yourself freely and without fear of reprisal.

(Editor’s Note: The Nov. 24 Letter to the Editor from Gene Olson mentioned the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag and also the Confederate Flag, which was flown on a different vehicle in the Veteran's Day parade.)

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