A flag mural incorporated into the facade on the outside of a new school in El Paso. Texas was supposed to honor its namesake, US Army veteran and Congressman Silvestre Reyes, and the country he served. Instead, it generated controversy in the local community and nationwide outrage among veterans.
The builders of the new Reyes Middle School partially painted a flag mural on the outside of the campus’ main building in the traditional three-color red, white, and blue color scheme.
When local residents complained that the painting scheme violated local housing covenants that stipulates construction is restricted to “natural” colors like orange or tan, the local school district directed the builders to paint over the flag. This, understandably, brought on a reaction of, “not so fast!” from local veterans.
Our friends at Article 15 Clothing, who are not only veterans but also El Paso residents themselves, brought this issue to our attention on Thursday last night, when they were interviewed by a local news station and ask to express their opinions on the decision to paint over the partially-completed US flag mural. This is what they had to say on the subject:
“I deployed twice, both to Iraq, once to Mosul and once to Baghdad and have seen guys get carried away with that flag draped on their casket,” said Jarred Taylor, Art.15’s Chief of Marketing. “So when it comes down to it, I look at that as a symbol of not only brothers that I fought alongside of but the reason why we were out there fighting to begin with.”
“We’re Americans, the American flag represents who we are and what we fight for,” added Art.15’s chief operations officer, Vincent Vargas, an Army veteran who served in the vaunted 75th Ranger Regiment.
These two warriors’ sentiments sum up exactly how many of us veterans feel about the US flag. When we enlist, we swear an oath before the flag. We wear it on our sleeve when we go into battle. And, ultimately, the US flag covers a veteran’s casket on the way to his or her final resting place. The US flag not only means SOMETHING to veterans, it means EVERYTHING.
But not, apparently, to the bureaucrats in El Paso. Those in charge of the school district and the construction company (none of whom claimed military service) were unsympathetic, with one, Rene Leon, citing the flag controversy as a “minor cosmetic issue.”
Think about that for a moment. Our national symbol, something all of us grew up pledging allegiance to, something that veterans carry into battle, the thing that covers our coffins after our deaths, is a “cosmetic issue” to the school district in El Paso, Texas. A “cosmetic issue,” like “my eyeliner is running” or “I need to wipe my nose.” Wow.
As soon as we heard about this issue, the Havok Journal team started writing about it. Our hope was to generate enough public interest in this subject to persuade the local community to change their neighborhood covenant, which would seem to be a much more appropriate course of action than changing the flag of our nation. But we were too late. The very next day, the red, white and blue was gone, replaced by a burnt-orange shade that makes the flag motif on the façade utterly unrecognizable. For all intents and purposes, the flag is now gone, as is a teachable moment to educate people about the importance of our flag.
The flag motif on the outside of the school is now invisible, swallowed in a sea of “natural” dark orange paint. I lived in the desert for a long time, and I don’t remember orange being a “natural” color, at least not on the ground. An orange US flag? What is this, Halloween? That looks dumb as hell.
If they had to repaint the US flag at all (which they shouldn’t have done in the first place) then they should have painted it in the subdued hues that our nation’s military wears into battle. This meets the requirements of the housing covenant without making the symbol of our nation look like it spent too much time in a tanning booth.
Look, here’s the deal. We understand that neighborhood have rules and those rules exist for a reason. But if our Constitution can be amended, so can simple local ordinances. The school district should have pushed to change THOSE, not change or nation’s flag. Telling a veteran that the US flag is a “small cosmetic issue” is like telling a Supreme Court justice that a violation of the Constitution is a “small issue of symantics.” It just doesn’t work. Furthermore, it represents everything that is wrong with our country today; everything is “just a little issue” unless it’s something that affects an individual directly, in which case it suddenly becomes the most important thing in the world.
The article that broke the story wasn’t much better. In addition to spelling the word “mural” wrong in the headline and including numerous smaller errors throughout (all since corrected), the article opined that the school district had “more profound” matters to content with than the flag controversy. More “profound” than the symbol of our nation? What, I wonder, could that be?
Too few of our countrymen perform national service of any type, especially military service. Those who have served tend to recognize that the US flag should be honored, cherished, and protected, not painted an unnatural color so it doesn’t “offend” the people who might happen to see it.
We know the flag is there, buried under paint to cover up the cosmetic issue that society sees it as, much like veterans themselves, who society sees as a burden they would rather not spend time on, regardless of the sacrifices the veterans have made for this nation.
We, the few, are hidden from sight by whitewash and disrespect because society feels no obligation to honor the service. We are that mural, hidden from view. That’s why this matters to us so much.