1 SEP 11: You're a High-Priced Flag
Welcome to September. We've reached the month for Patriot Day remembering the terror attacks, along with Constitution Day. Yet it appeared for awhile Wednesday Alabama was so broke that it couldn't afford a state flag -- and might have to appeal to Senator Richard Shelby for every spare "Capitol-flown" flag he could get.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced he's changing state policy, and will provide free state flags to any member of the combat military who requests one. The announcement came after an aide turned down a soldier, who wanted to take a state flag to Afghanistan. Couldn't he make up his mind about which college football team he prefers?
It all started when Sgt. First Class Howard Blake Junior asked the Governor's office for an Alabama state flag to display near his camp. But an aide explained free flags are only given to relatives of military personnel killed in action. If you love your home state, spend a little money there on a flag before you leave it.
A press secretary told the Birmingham News if Sgt. Howard Blake Jr. sent Robert Bentley an Alabama state flag, the Governor would make sure it was flown over the state Capitol. Then Bentley would return the flag, postage-paid and with a certificate. Who knows how many Auburn fans have tried to do the same thing with Aubie dolls at Jordan-Hare Stadium....
But providing an Alabama state flag is something aides said the Governor's office cannot afford to do. One large flag can cost about 30 dollars, and dozens of requests for flags are sent to Montgomery every month. The cost of fulfilling every request could total $20,000 a year - and then what if we found out the flags are made in China?
After the rejection for a state flag made the Birmingham News, Governor Robert Bentley took action. He reversed the policy for active military personnel in combat zones, telling a news conference it was "a stupid policy." If he's using that kind of language, he must have found evidence a Democrat started it.
As it happens, Sergeant Blake's brother lives in Phenix City. William Blake said the Alabama Governor ought to be able to afford a flag if the state can "afford other programs that cost thousands of dollars...." He'd better not say that in front of school principals who have faced round after round of proration.
Alabama Democratic leaders offered their own response to Sgt. Howard Blake Jr., creating a "Freedom Fund" to send state flags to military personnel overseas. Isn't this strange? The Democrats want to do this through private funding, while the Republican Governor approves the use of state tax money for it.
Governor Bentley made a change on the side of patriotism, saying the old policy made "no common sense." It certainly isn't logical politically, either. Turn down a request for a state flag, and a soldier might ask for one from the White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery - which will make military morale even tougher.
But a couple of things concern me about this flag flap. One of them is the attitude shown in Sergeant Blake's two e-mails to the Alabama Governor. The first one said: "I understand that you have more important things to do than send things out to the other side of the planet...." Especially when no Asian manufacturers promise a factory in the process....
Compare that with the sergeant's second e-mail, after being turned down for a state flag: "Enjoy your day in an air-conditioned office while we continue to sweat out here, defending your right to be so aloof to your constituents." I thought the governor's office had more important things to do. But Blake wound up creating a guilt cloud without even throwing a smoke grenade.
The other concern I have is something Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss mentioned during a visit to Columbus Wednesday. He told WRBL Congress needs to "reform entitlements." He meant Social Security and Medicaid - but in effect, Alabama's Governor has created another one. What will soldiers expect from the state next? Can Sister Schubert's afford that many pans of sweet rolls?
This admittedly is a touchy subject in a big military area. But soldiers who think they're entitled to all kinds of special favors should remember they chose to join the Army - and that choice doesn't automatically make them better or more deserving than anyone else. Other Alabamians had to get over that line of thinking. But many current soldiers probably don't know who George Wallace was.
Wednesday's news from Montgomery showed the "entitlement mentality" can cross political party lines. In fact, it's a way of thinking all of us have to battle in one way or another. Maybe that's why I've never filled out the form to get discount rewards at Big Lots.
I'll "red-flag" the psychology lesson there (with that Alabama flag tossed in at no extra charge), and close by sending a few Instant Messages....
+ To WRBL meteorologist Bob Jeswald: Yes, I got your joke about that potential tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. When you said "Hey, Lee" Wednesday night, I suspect Kurt Schmitz fell out of his chair and rolled on the floor with laughter.
+ To Alabama head football coach Nick Saban: What do you mean, you have "roster management issues"? You're not coaching the Miami Dolphins anymore, so you can have all the walk-ons on the bench you want.
+ To officials at Texas A&M University: You've played second fiddle to Texas for decades. What makes you think you'll be bigger than Georgia and Florida in the Southeastern Conference now? And what if the SEC turns you down? Will you be happy competing against Troy in the Sun Belt every year?
SCHEDULED FRIDAY: Where did one of Columbus's best reporters go? We track down the answer....
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