Express-News: Top Stories
Legislature honors Vietnam War hero Roy P. Benavidez

By Sig Christenson
San Antonio Express-News


AUSTIN — Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez always did his duty.

"Dad would be humbled, but he wouldn't accept this award for himself personally," Noel Benavidez said of the honor presented posthumously to his father, Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez.
Photos by John Davenport/Express-News

 Medal of Honor, Texas paid tribute to Benavidez's selfless act.

In a rare hourlong joint session Wednesday, the House and Senate gave the late Benavidez the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, making him the first Hispanic and only third veteran from the Lone Star State to receive the honor.

The last joint session was held Feb. 16, 1999, in observance of Military Appreciation Day.

"We use the word hero sometimes lightly," Gov. Rick Perry said in an interview before addressing the session. "But there's only one word to describe Roy Benavidez, and it is appropriate to use the word hero. He was a great man."

Thirty-three years to the day he saved eight fellow Special Forces soldiers in the jungles of Cambodia, an action that earned him the
Though Benavidez died nearly three years ago at age 63 in San Antonio, his memory was celebrated by family, friends and fellow soldiers who gathered in the House as lawmakers watched his wife, Hilaria, receive the medal from Perry.

"Dad would be humbled, but he wouldn't accept this award for himself personally," said Noel Benavidez, his 28-year-old son. "He would accept it for those heroes who fought and died alongside of him that day."

A procession of speakers then paid tribute to Benavidez, who also was posthumously given a Presidential Unit Citation for his service as a member of the small Studies and Observations Group.

The elite group worked in Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War and was so secretive its members wore no U.S. markings and used weapons made outside the United States. Credited with forcing North Vietnam to post 50,000 troops in the region, it wasn't acknowledged by the government until last year.

"Dad would be humbled, but he wouldn't accept this award for himself personally," said Noel Benavidez, his 28-year-old son. "He would accept it for those heroes who fought and died alongside of him that day."

"He probably would say that he couldn't believe it," Hilaria Benavidez said. "But I'm sure he's very happy."

Benavidez died at Brooke Army Medical Center on Nov. 29, 1998, 30 years after enduring a battle he described as "six hours of hell."

A North Vietnamese regiment surrounded a dozen soldiers from his unit during a secret mission to Cambodia on May 2, 1968. Three helicopters trying to save the men came under heavy fire and were unable to land.

Benavidez suffered wounds to the right leg, face and head while charging through heavy enemy fire to reach the helicopter. He repositioned soldiers so they could give cover to the helicopters, then carried the wounded to nearby aircraft.

As the fight raged, Benavidez retrieved secret papers, then gathered wounded troops from a downed aircraft and set up a defense perimeter. He called in airstrikes, directed fire from helicopters buzzing over the battlefield and, though injured himself, gave first aid to wounded fellow troops.

"Because of his selfless acts, the lives of eight American soldiers were saved and miraculously, despite being wounded more than 40 times, Roy Benavidez endured," Perry told those in the crowded chamber.

"He endured another 30 years, 30 years in which he lived with a punctured lung, 30 years he lived with two pieces of shrapnel lodged (near) his heart."

Retired Sgt. Maj. Benito Guerrero, an old friend, said Benavidez began to reach out to young people after receiving the Medal of Honor on Feb. 24, 1981, from President Reagan, who urged him to be an example to others. Over the years Benavidez urged kids to stay in school and stay off drugs.

"Until failing health stopped him only a few months before he died, he was still going about the business of saving lives," said Chris Barbee, editor and owner of a newspaper in El Campo, where Benavidez lived most of his life.

House Speaker Pete Laney chuckled as he thought of a meeting years ago with Benavidez, who was "tougher than nails but (had) a good heart."

"If you went into an alley, you'd want him with you," Laney said with a smile.

The Navy last fall said it would name the seventh in a class of large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off sealift ships in his honor. It will christen the USNS Benavidez on July 21 in New Orleans.

A $14 million special operations complex was dedicated two years ago in his honor at Fort Bragg, N.C. The 42,124-square-foot complex is used to deploy combat service and health units to Special Operations units.

Benavidez follows Lt. Jack Knight and James Marion Logan in receiving the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. Though a law creating the medal took effect in 1963, the first one was given to Logan, of Kilgore, in 1997.

Rep. Miguel D. Wise, D-Weslaco, and Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, spearheaded the drive to give the award to Benavidez.

"I was getting chills this morning as they were reading the citation," said Rep. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who joined the Marines as a private and left in 1989 as an officer. "I was trying to imagine as he went through that day, and I just couldn't imagine. But obviously he did it because he loved his fellow soldiers."


Family Health Matters
Edited by Dr. Brad Krueger

Treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after exposure to any frightening or threatening event involving potential or actual physical harm.It's been estimated that nearly one million Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. Tens of thousands of veterans with PTSD receive treatment from the VA in the form of medication and/or talk therapy, but with limited results. Many others continue to live without treatment for their condition.

A program sponsored by the renowned Upledger Foundation in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, may provide a glimpse into the effective treatment of PTSD. The "Vietnam Veteran Intensive Treatment Program," as it was called, initially involved 24 veterans recruited for 10-day intensive programs; 22 patients completed the program.

CranioSacral Therapy involved using a soft touch generally no greater than five grams - about the weight of a nickel - to test and release restrictions in the craniosacral system (the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord) to improve the functioning of the central nervous system. SomatoEmotional Release, an expansion on the principles of CranioSacral Therapy, involved the integration of manual techniques with verbal processing skills and other creative methods.

Overall, statistically significant improvements were noted in all of the variables, suggesting that results were a direct consequence of the treatments delivered. One of the most impressive findings demonstrated a shift in subjects' attitudes from hopelessness to optimism.

House Approves H.R. 1696 Calling for End to Delays
Blocking Construction of World War II Memorial
May 15, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. - "More than three million World War II veterans have died since Congress approved a national memorial to them in 1993, yet work has not begun," said House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-4) during today's debate on H.R. 1696, legislation to expedite construction of the already-approved World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC.

"We've had enough discussion, objections, and dilatory tactics. It's time to break ground on this memorial," said Smith. The House later voted to approve H.R. 1696, which was sponsored by Armed Services Committee Chairman Bob Stump (AZ-3) and cosponsored by Veterans' Committee Chairman Smith and Ranking Democrat Member Lane Evans (IL-17). The legislation now moves to the Senate for their approval.

"The design and site for the memorial have been carefully studied, considered and approved over a period of more than six years, a
longer time than it took to win World War II," said Chairman Smith. "The Allied victory in this greatest war in world history
represented a triumph of the human spirit and began the march of freedom and democracy across the world that continues even today," he said.

"America must never forget the cost of victory, nor the men and women who paid for this victory with their lives," Smith said. "The
World War II Memorial is a tribute to their service, as well as a permanent reminder for all of us, as well as future generations to
come, about the eternal value of freedom and the price that was paid to secure it," he said.

"H.R. 1696 will be the sixth bipartisan piece of legislation Congress has sent to the White House for approval attempting to move
the process along," said Congressman Bob Stump, prime sponsor of the bill. "Over the past six years, 22 public hearings have been held on the site and design of the memorial, which has received the endorsement of the Historic Preservation Officer of the District of Columbia and four endorsements from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board," he said.

"In addition, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission have each rendered approval for the memorial five times. The site was approved by both the Secretary of Interior and the President. And still construction has not begun," Stump said.

"More than 50 years after the end of World War II there still does not exist in our Nation's capital a fitting memorial to the
service and sacrifice of the millions of Americans who preserved democracy and defeated totalitarianism during World War II. The
time to construct this memorial is now", Evans said. Noting that the National World War II Memorial will be located between the
Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, Evans said some critics of the memorial argue the memorial would "clutter up an already crowded site. A prominent memorial to those whose service and sacrifice this memorial will honor is not 'clutter'," he



The following items are topics for discussion with Secretary Principi and General Schellhase reference the VA Medical Health Care at the Kerrville VA Hospital.

  1. The HCVC’s support for Mr. Tim Shea is still very strong and enthusiastic.  I believe the applicants were all due in by 9 March 2001 and the selection process was to begin right away.  Can you tell us anything about the status of the new STVHCS director and the new VISN 17 director ?
  1. Congressmen Smith made a public announcement in Kerrville last March that the Kerrville hospital will receive the funding to complete the Adult Day Care Facility and that it would be announced that afternoon or the first thing the next morning.  No announcement has been made to this date.  Was this an error on Congressmen Smith’s part or is this still in the works ?
  1. There is still a serious shortage of nurses.  I understand this problem is VA wide.  My discussion with Dr. Dan Bacon, Chief Medical Officer at Kerrville VA Hospital, he stated he has a hiring freeze in effect.  This being the middle of the fiscal year, why a hiring freeze ?
  1. We are all having difficultly understanding  VISN 17 budget process.  Any time we ask why something is being discontinued or delayed, the answer is always budget.  The current issue is where Veterans are being delayed being fitted for prosthetics due to budget.  Is there any possibility this could be true? 
  1. While the Veteran population (the customers of the VA hospitals) is saying we need more hospital beds. Audie Murphy is closing 22 more beds in the oncology clinic. Kerrville is now down to 20 beds and 5  ICU beds (a former 422 bed hospital).

Is the VA overall plan to continue to close down hospital beds ? 

6.            Kerrville is still in need of the following:

    1. Physical Therapy Clinic – physical therapy is being done, but there is no clinic
    2. Pain Clinic – contracts with U of T  San Antonio is of no benefit to sick Veterans in Kerrville
    3. Audiology Clinic with staff more than once every two weeks (there is a six month back log)
    4. Cardiology Clinic
    5. Ophthalmologist – only having one doctor in Kerrville one day every two weeks has added to the problem in the 6 month backlog
    6. Orthopedic Staff – Kerrville has an aged population.  This staff member is needed
    7. Surgery - Kerrville VA has one of the areas leading surgeons in Dr. Kilgore before he went to the VA Hospital and Dr. King.  Both are now being used to do lumps and bumps type surgery.  This is a real waste of talent and assets.
    8. Urologist – 58 days waiting time is entirely to long to wait for an appointment, especially when the population is aged like it is in the Hill Country, a retirement community.  
  1. Waiting time to get an appointment is still an issue.  The VA has been working to correct this problem for the past 50 years.   Will there ever be a solution or is this just the way it is going to be for our Veterans 
  1. Waiting time to see the doctor after an appointment has been made is still an issue. Will more budget fix this problem.
  1. Use of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital Ambulatory Care Clinic by the VA -   The HCVC would like to continue to explore the possibility of some sort of contract with SPMH, where Veterans can be serviced by the ambulatory facility as opposed to going to San Antonio.  In recent discussions I have had with Mr. Pat Murray, hospital administrator of SPMH and Bill Matthews, the SPMH Board president,  they feels this should not be a difficult issue to resolve.  Can you provide guidance as to how the HCVC can assist in making this happen ?
  1. The substance abuse rehab program has in reality been discontinued in Kerrville.  We now have what is being tagged as a walk-in/walk-out program.  It operates only in the morning, if you like it - stay, if not -leave.   It is kind of like an out patient program and according to our members, it is not working. The HCVC has members that are success stories from the old lock down program. We have none from the current program.  Today the abusers just drift from one open clinic to the next and they have no long term plans to stop their abuse.  What can we do to get this turned around ?
  1. We find there are no pictures of the chain of command in the VA Hospitals (Audie Murphy & Kerrville).  Can this be corrected ? 
The HCVC raised the issue of the possibility of having the Kerrville VA Hospital serve as a full-fledged diagnostic facility for the VA system, especially in South Texas.  You indicated your willingness to pursue this issue with further dialog with HCVC.  Can we do this during this meeting ?

Express-News: Military 
Bill would hasten memorial

Express-News: Military 
Bill would hasten memorial 

Associated Press 

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers determined to see construction begin on a World War II memorial pushed through a bill Tuesday that would put the project on a faster track.

Critics say the effort could set a precedent that would eliminate safeguards aimed at preventing the nation's capital from becoming too cluttered with monuments.

The bill, which passed the House by a 400-15 vote, would order construction of the memorial to begin "expeditiously" and make all previous decisions regarding the memorial "final and conclusive" and not subject to judicial or administrative review. The Senate has not yet acted on the bill, although a companion measure has been introduced by Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.

The memorial, which would be located midway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, has been hotly debated since 1995. Critics have complained it would clutter the National Mall.

Two weeks ago, the National Capital Planning Commission decided to reopen debate over what the memorial should look like and where it should be built. The commission has scheduled a May 23 meeting on the matter and has asked the National Park Service to construct a mock-up of the structure.

Detractors have also filed a federal lawsuit alleging a number of environmental concerns, including a claim that nearby elm trees must be protected.



1700 Sidney Baker, Suite 100
Kerrville, Texas 78028
830-896-1157 Fax 830-896-1175   

Walter Schellhase, President
Bill Stacy, Vice President
Bill Bacon, Past President
Murphy Chesney, Board Member
Joe Benham, Board Member
Bill Bowden, Board Member

20 May, 2001

Gene Higgins, Board Member 
Jack Ledford, Board Member
Ben Low, Board Member
Gene Richie, Board Member
Joe Strange, Board Member


Mr. Anthony J. Principi, Jr.
Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Friday last I had a confirmed appointment to meet you in your office at 3.30 PM.  I left Kerrville, Texas on Wednesday morning at my own personal expense to meet with you reference the issues outlined in a “talking paper” that arrived in your office on Wednesday morning.  Judy made all my arrangements for this meeting. 

Upon arrival at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building, Michelle escorted me to your office and told me, “I will inform the Secretary you are here”.  About 15 minutes later I was introduced to Chris.  He informed me you were out of town.  Chris said he was your personal legal council and would represent you.  He knew absolutely nothing about our confirmed meeting, none of the topics to be discussed, nor had he seen the “talking paper” reference why I was in the office.  I asked to see Judy.  When she was located she informed me she had called my office and home to cancel our confirmed meeting.  Unfortunately this occurred after I had departed for DC. 

Several things really bothers me about what I was being told, 1) the fact that on Tuesday afternoon before our Friday meeting and before I left town my appointment had been changed from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM by Judy to better meet your schedule, 2) upon arrival in your office to be informed by Michelle that “she would tell you I had arrived”, 3) and then have Chris tell me you were out of town.  This all sounded like the bureaucracy is working extremely well in your office.

After only a couple of exchanges with Chris, I knew he had no idea what I was talking about. Judy assured me she would reschedule another meeting at your convenience.  With that information I departed your office and returned to Texas.

Mr. Secretary, I realize you are extremely busy and have a lot of fires to put out and my concerns are probably not very high on your priority list of things to do.  However, each item on my “talking paper” is of extreme interest to our 16,000 members in South Texas.  The President has told all America that the VA system needs overhauling from top to bottom.  Our concerns are at the bottom where the Veterans receives their medical health care and we need your help to make sure the Veterans do not have to stand in line with “hat in hand” as the President put it to receive what they have paid dearly for – adequate medical health care.

I am looking forward to the rescheduled meeting Judy has promised.


Walter Schellhase
USAR-BG (Retired) 
President, Hill Country Veterans Council 

cc:  President George W. Bush
Senator Phil Gramm
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
Representative Lamar Smith 


1700 Sidney Baker, Suite 100
Kerrville, Texas 78028
830-896-1157 Fax 830-896-1175   

Walter Schellhase, President
Bill Stacy, Vice President
Bill Bacon, Past President
Murphy Chesney, Board Member
Joe Benham, Board Member
Bill Bowden, Board Member

20 May, 2001

Gene Higgins, Board Member 
Jack Ledford, Board Member
Ben Low, Board Member
Gene Richie, Board Member
Joe Strange, Board Member


President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

This past Friday I had on of the most disappointing and embarrassing experiences  of my past 20 years dealing with the Washington bureaucracy.  You have said on numerous occasions “the Government was the people’s Government”.  My experience last Friday clearly indicates that your message has not reached some members of your cabinet and their staff.

Last Friday, as President of the Hill Country Veterans Council representing over 16,000 Veterans in the Texas Hill Country, I had a confirmed appointment with Secretary Principi.  My appointment was made by his office in July and reconfirmed on Tuesday prior to departing for DC on Wednesday morning.  Secretary Principi did not keep this appointment.  His staff was totally unaware of what I was there for even though I had provided a “talking paper” (copy attached) for his review prior to our meeting.  The embarrassing part of the occasion was that I was escorted to the Secretary’s office by Michelle and told she would inform the Secretary that I had arrived.  About 15 minutes later a person named Chris informed me that the Secretary was out of town.  Even though representing the Secretary, Chris knew absolutely nothing about why I was in the office. 

Judy made all arrangements for this meeting.  Once Judy was located, she informed me she had called my office after I had departed Kerrville for DC to inform me the Secretary would be out of town.

With this bit of information, I excused myself and flew back to Texas at considerable expense to myself and the Hill Country Veterans Council.  Judy indicated she would schedule another meeting at sometime convenient for the Secretary.

 At your next cabinet meeting I would suggest you reiterate the fact that you believe “the Government is the people’s Government” and does not belong to the bureaucracy.  When appointments are make with the people they should be kept, especially when the subject is health care for our Veterans.


Walter Schellhase
USAR-BG (Retired) 
President, Hill Country Veterans Council 

cc:  Secretary Principi
Senator Phil Gramm
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
Representative Lamar Smith 

May 22, 2001
World War II Memorial Gets Final 'Fast Track'
By House and Senate; Smith Expects Bush Signature

House passes Senate-amended bill ending delays and ordering start to construction on Mall

WASHINGTON, D.C. - "All we need now is a presidential signature and we can get started on an overdue tribute to the 'greatest generation' and their sacrifices to keep the world free," said House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-4) Tuesday after the House approved its Senate-amended measure to expedite construction of the World War II Memorial on the Mall after years of delay.

H.R. 1696, authored by World War II veteran and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Bob Stump (AZ-3), passed the House May 15 and underwent several technical changes in the Senate Monday before going back to the House. President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law.

"It's been nearly 56 years since VJ Day and eight years since the House first authorized this memorial," Smith said. "Since then more than three million World War II veterans have died and 1,100 more are dying every day. It's time to put an end to the dilatory tactics, crank up the backhoes, pick up the shovels, and break ground."

Smith called the Allied victory in World War II a "triumph of the human spirit and the greatest undertaking in human history. We cannot let future generations forget the cost in blood and treasure the World War II generation paid to keep the world free."

In the initial May 15 House debate, Smith and Stump recited the lengthy process the project site and design have undergone,
including 22 public hearings and endorsements by the Historic Preservation Officer and Historic Preservation Review Board of the District of Columbia and five expressions of approval by the Commission of Fine Arts and National

Capital Planning Commission. Those decisions will not be subject to further judicial review, according to the provisions of the Senate's amendment.


May 25, 2001

Bill headed to White House for President's signature

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Just before Memorial Day was a fitting time for the House to pass a "family-friendly" benefits bill expanding health and insurance coverage for surviving dependents
of veterans and servicemembers, House VA Committee Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-4) said Thursday.

"This bill is a reminder of what is owed to the survivors of our servicemen and women, and although much remains to be done by this Congress, it is a harbinger of what we can accomplish
to keep our commitment to veterans," he said after passage of the Senate-amended H.R. 801, the Veterans' Survivor Benefits Improvements Act of 2001.

The amended H.R. 801, now on its way to the White House for the President's signature, would:

· Expand health coverage under the Civilian Health and Medical
Program-Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) for
survivors of veterans who died from a service-connected disability.
Under this measure, CHAMPVA beneficiaries
who are Medicare-eligible would receive coverage similar to "TRICARE
for Life" improvements Congress gave to
Department of Defense beneficiaries last year. Such coverage
would be automatic for CHAMPVA beneficiaries
already eligible for Medicare on the date of enactment. Future
Medicare-eligible CHAMPVA beneficiaries would
have to obtain Medicare Part B coverage before receiving the
new benefit.

· Expand the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program
to include spouses and children. Spousal
coverage could not exceed $100,000 and child coverage could not
exceed $10,000. Upon termination of SGLI, the
spouse's policy could be converted to a private life insurance

· Make the effective date of increased maximum SGLI coverage
from $200,000 to $250,000 retroactive to October
1, 2000. This would provide increased benefits to survivors of
servicemembers who died in recent training accidents
or acts of terrorism while on duty.

· Require the VA to make eligible dependents aware of VA services
through the media and other outreach efforts

"Memorial Day is a day of national remembrance for the sacrifices made by our veterans to keep this nation free," Chairman Smith said. "The enactment of HR 801 will not only help the thousands
of families who need our compassion and assistance; it is part of a growing recognition by our country that our veterans are not forgotten, and that we need to remember and pay tribute to their service 365 days a year, not just on holidays and celebrations."

"I want to thank Ranking Member Lane Evans (IL-17) for all of his work and support for this legislation," Smith added. "Bipartisanship is alive and well on the House Veterans' Affairs


May 25, 2001

Cites GAO Recommendation that DOD Use VA's Mail Service on Drug Refills

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The VA and Department of Defense will save American taxpayers over $300 million a year by increasing joint procurement of pharmaceuticals, VA Subcommittee on Oversight
and Investigation Chairman Steve Buyer (IN-5) said Friday, announcing the results of a GAO report he commissioned on the subject.

Buyer said the 1982 Public Law 97-174 (the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense Health Resources Sharing and Emergency Operations Act) gave the two huge agencies authority to share medical resources.

Buyer said the two departments spent a total of about $3.2 billion on drug prescriptions in fiscal year 2000, and new drug benefits in 2001 will further hike DOD's annual costs by $800 million. "As a result of Oversight and Investigations scrutiny," Buyer said, "we've found that the VA and DOD pharmaceutical procurement officials have met regularly over the last 18 months, something they hadn't been doing the previous 18 years." "These regular meetings have identified opportunities and produced commitments to increase
the number of pharmaceuticals they jointly procure, thereby saving taxpayers substantial sums of money," Buyer added. The GAO report also cites DOD's commitment to pilot test VA's mail service pharmacy.
Buyer cited estimates that DOD could save $45 million from such an endeavor, which would also increase patient safety and convenience.

But Buyer pointed out that much more can be done in terms of sharing other medical resources. In 1999, VA and DOD entered into sharing agreements totaling $60 million out of combined health care budgets of $35 billion. "That's a start," Buyer said. "But that' s less than two-tenths of one percent of the medical budgets of these departments, according to last year's GAO testimony. More savings, such as from sharing medical services and jointly procuring medical equipment, could be reinvested in improved health care for veterans, military retirees, servicemembers and their families."

VA Insurance Hoax 

The VA Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) requests assistance in attempting to put an end to an insurance hoax that has plagued the VA for many years. Veterans are being told by fliers or articles to apply for SGLI dividends. The fliers did not originate with the VA and do not reflect VA policies. The VA does not pay dividends on SGLI policies. Dividend payments are automatic to those veterans who have participating VA policies that pay dividends and who continue to pay premiums. The dividend is usually paid on the anniversary date of the policy, and no application is needed. Some recent versions of the hoax have included offers to assist the veteran in obtaining the "dividend" for a small fee. Do not give any money to individuals who make his offer to you. If you are approached with such an offer, you should immediately report it to the VAOIG, providing all available identifying information (such as name, address, and telephone number) on the individual. The VAOIG Hotline Address & Phone Number are: 
Department of Veterans Affairs 
Inspector General Hotline (53E) 
PO Box 50410 
Washington, D.C. 20091-0410 
Phone: 1-800-488-8244

Photo by John Curry

Guidelines for Display of the Flag

Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, contains rules for handling and displaying the U.S. Flag. While the federal code contains no penalties for misusing the flag, states have their own flag codes and may impose penalties. The language of the federal code makes clear that the flag is a living symbol. In response to a Supreme Court decision which held that a state law prohibiting flag burning was unconstitutional, Congress enacted the Flag Protection Act in 1989. It provides that anyone who knowingly desecrates the flag may be fined and/or imprisoned for up to one year. However, this law was challenged by the Supreme Court in a 1990 decision that the Flag Protection Act violates the First Amendment free speech protections.


Important Things to Remember

Traditional guidelines call for displaying the flag in public only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag may be displayed at all times if it's illuminated during darkness. The flag should not be subject to weather damage, so it should not be displayed during rain, snow and wind storms unless it is an all-weather flag. It should be displayed often, but especially on national and state holidays and special occasions. The flag should be displayed on or near the main building of public institutions, schools during school days, and polling places on election days. It should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. When carried in procession with other flags, the U.S. flag should be either on the marching right (the flag's right) or to the front and center of the flag line. When displayed on a float in a parade, the flag should be hung from a staff or suspended so it falls free. It should not be draped over a vehicle. When displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, the U.S. flag should be on its own right (left to a person facing the wall) and its staff should be in front of the other flag's staff. In a group of flags displayed from staffs, the U.S. flag should be at the center and the highest point. When flags of states, cities or organizations are flown on the same staff, the U.S. flag must be at the top (except during church services conducted at sea by Navy chaplains). When other flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the U.S. flag should be hoisted first and lowered last. It must be on the right of other flags and no other flag should stand higher than it. Flags of other nations should be flown from separate staffs. International custom dictates that flags of different nations be displayed at the same height in peacetime and be approximately the same size. If the flag is suspended outdoors from a rope stretched from a building to a pole, the flag should be hoisted out from the building with the union first. When the flag is displayed other than from a staff, it should be flat or suspended so that it falls free. When displayed against something, such as a wall, the union should be at the top and to the flag's own right, the observer's left - whether displayed horizontally or vertically. When displayed over a street or sidewalk, where it can be seen from either side, be sure the union is to the north on an east-west street, and to the east on a north-south street. The same directions apply in a building lobby or corridor with entrances to the east and west or north and south. When displayed flat against the wall on a speaker's platform, the flag should be above and behind the speaker with the union on the left side as the audience looks at it (again, the flag's right). When the flag hangs from a staff in a church or public place, it should appear to the audience on the left, the speaker's right. Any other flags displayed should be placed on the opposite side of the speaker. The flag may cover a casket, but should not cover a statue or monument for unveiling. It should never be draped or drawn back in folds. Draped red, white and blue bunting should be used for decoration, with the blue at the top and red at the bottom. On a casket, the union (blue field) should be at the deceased person's head and heart, over the left shoulder. But the flag should be removed before the casket is lowered into the grave and should never touch the ground. The flag may be flown at half-staff to honor a newly deceased federal or state government official by order of the president or the governor, respectively. On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon. Whenever the flag is displayed at half-staff, it should be first raised to the top. Lowering from half-staff is preceded by first raising it momentarily to the top.


Other Things Not to Do with the Flag

Out of respect for the U.S. flag, never: dip it for any person or thing, even though state flags, regimental colors and other flags may be dipped as a mark of honor. display it with the union down, except as a signal of distress. let the flag touch anything beneath it: ground, floor, water, merchandise. carry it horizontally, but always aloft. fasten or display it in a way that will permit it to be damaged or soiled. place anything on the flag, including letters, insignia, or designs of any kind. use it for holding anything. use it as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery. It should not be used on a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be attached to the uniform of patriotic organizations, military personnel, police officers and firefighters. use the flag for advertising or promotion purposes or print it on paper napkins, boxes or anything else intended for temporary use and discard. During the hoisting or lowering of the flag or when it passes in parade or review, Americans should stand at attention facing the flag and place their right hand over the heart. Uniformed military members render the military salute. Men not in uniform should remove any headdress and hold it with their right hand at their left shoulder, the hand resting over the heart. Those who are not U.S. citizens should stand at attention. When the flag is worn out or otherwise no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Thank you, John Curry, for sending this information to our site!