Suspected flag burner pilloried
Alleged offender hunted down, ridiculed after incident at VFW post
By BOB GARDINIER AND HUMBERTO MARTÍNEZ, Staff writer
First published in print: Saturday, September 26, 2009
VALLEY FALLS -- The young man was given three choices: get turned over to the police, go one-on-one in a fight with a seasoned war veteran, or be duct-taped to a flagpole for six hours with a sign around his neck identifying his alleged crime: flag burning.
It was the third option that would still have the small town buzzing a week after a 21-year-old was hunted down and forced to endure a public humiliation with its roots dating to the Middle Ages. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1938 were incensed enough to tie up the man last Sunday after they accused him of setting the flag in front of their building on fire.
Post Commander Nick Normile, a Vietnam War veteran, said the man came into the post's bar Sept. 18 on Poplar Avenue and was eventually turned away for not having a proper ID.
Apparently angered, the young man, who Normile did not want to name, cut the rope of the American flag flying overhead and used a cigarette lighter to set it on fire, Normile and others said.
The man sat pilloried as the village had its fall youth soccer picnic with a long parade of children passing in front of him.
"He'll never disrespect the flag again, I can tell you that," Normile said.
Normile said the flag had at one point flown over U.S. troops in Iraq had special significance.
Veterans, both local and nationwide, responded to the event as accountings were posted online to the official VFW Facebook page and national Web site. Comments posted supported the act and added ideas for further punishment.
Other nearby business owners said they knew of the event but refused to give an accounting. Unconfirmed reports by citizens said the alleged flag-burner was a relative of a previous commander of the post.
Calls made to the alleged flag burner and a spokesman for the national VFW organization for comments were not returned. The Rensselaer County Sheriffs office confirmed knowledge of the event, but said they were not involved. State Police in Brunswick were contacted, but a trooper said no record of the event could be found.
The flag will be disposed of at a formal ceremony, Normile said.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
It's this town.