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2 Fayette Vietnam vets keep watch on Old Glory

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
The U.S. flag flying atop the Connellsville Post Office on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, is showing signs of wear. The stripes are beginning to separate as evidenced in this photo. A new flag is reportedly on order.

For Fayette County Vietnam veterans Chester Prinkey, 68, and Lanny Golden, 66, seeing the U.S. flag flying from a pole and in bad condition upsets them.

“There should be a law,” said Golden, of Uniontown, referring to the U.S. Flag Code, which is not a law, and to U.S. Supreme Court decisions allowing protesters to burn and deface the flag.

“I dropped my blood on the ground beneath that flag,” said Prinkey, of Dunbar Township, adding the flag is much more than just a piece of cloth to him.

Golden said the issue of damaged flags came to a head for him after he returned from a burial in a national cemetery in West Virginia for the cremated remains of veterans who had been recently identified through the Missing in America Project, or MIAP. On his way home, he drove by a service station in Uniontown displaying an enormous flag that was tattered.

Golden said he called Prinkey, who came down to see for himself. They noted several flags in the area that were in poor shape.

Golden asked “a high city official” in Uniontown, who turned to an aide and told him to make a note of it.

More than 30 days later, the veterans found nothing had been done.

Golden said he went inside the business with the large flag and suggested to the employees that they tell their boss to take down the tattered flag. He also notified all of the neighboring businesses. Since then, all have been replaced.

Prinkey knows the cost of replacing or repairing a large flag. He and other veterans care for the large 30-foot by 60-foot flag at the Uniontown Mall. That flag was purchased at a cost of more than $1,700 and included a 40 percent discount. Robert Eberly, a Fayette County philanthropist, made a large donation toward the purchase of that flag before his death.

The flag has since suffered damage. It was taken down, returned to the manufacturer and repaired at a cost of $400. The repair did not hold and the manufacturer said it would be repaired at no further cost.

Since spotting those damaged flags in 2013, both men have begun to watch as they drive around. Golden pointed out that the flag flying over the Connellsville Post Office had some damage. Attempts to contact the postmaster were not successful, but a clerk at the desk said the postmaster was aware of the problem and had ordered a new flag.

Golden said he gets upset when he hears about “minorities” complaining about the Ten Commandments monument at Connellsville Area Junior High School.

“There were just two of them (who said they were offended and sued to have the monument removed) and they won't even give their names,” Golden said. “Well, me and Chet (Prinkey) are offended.”

He also gets upset about atheist groups who press for the removal of religious symbols from veterans' memorials around the country.

“There should be a (voter) referendum,” Golden said, adding those in the majority also have rights.

To read the United States Flag Code, visit http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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