18 August 2011

Tips on Post-Homecoming Etiquette

At risk of being labelled a summer curmudgeon--particularly as the "Red Bull" soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry Division (2-34th BCT) continue to bask in the humid afterglow of last month's return from Afghanistan--here are a few post-homecoming etiquette suggestions for your consideration. While I'm at it, maybe I should also pitch a "Master Sgt. Manners" advice column to Stars and Stripes?

Untie Those Yellow Ribbons

If you chose to tie plastic yellow ribbons on every old oak tree, lamp post, and fire hydrant along the avenue, grab some scissors and cut sling a few days after your soldiers have finally come marching home. Don't get me wrong: It is a lovely and heartwarming touch. At some point, however, it transgresses into vandalism. True patriots clean up after themselves--particularly after tying their ribbons around someone else's old oak trees.

If you don't want to clean up, next time, consider using biodegradeable ribbon. Or perhaps crepe paper?

*****

Don't Join the Flag Police

Too many people want to jump all over the American flag. More accurately, they're eager to build themselves up by tearing others down. They want to dictate to people when to display the flag, when to raise it, and when to fly it at half-staff, and for how long. Then they post their flag-raving stories via Facebook, their victims' virtual scalps presented as evidence of their patriotic purities.

Yes, there's a U.S. Flag Code. Yes, federal and state governments can determine when and for how long flags displayed on public property--that's public property, not private--should remain at half-staff. Don't kid yourself, however: You're not defending freedom by seeking to enforce your own flag standards. You're squashing it.

Want more people to display the flag? Lead by example.

Meanwhile, don't tread on me.

*****

Homecomings Last a Long Time, but Homecoming Signs Shouldn't

Homecoming is a journey, not a destination. It may take weeks, months, or years for a soldier or family to fully move forward. What's the expiration date on a "welcome home" sign, however? About as long as post-election campaign signs, "congratulations on your graduation" banners, and those 6-foot-tall "it's a boy/girl" plywood cutouts that are shaped like cartoon storks.

Every U.S. soldier in basic training learns this mantra while practicing individual movement under fire: "I'm up ... they see me ... I'm down."

That works for signs, too.

*****

Don't Know What to Say? Say "Welcome Home."

Johnny or Joanie may have been home from a deployment for months before you get an opportunity to see them in person. They've had things to do, you've had things to do. Don't worry about it. Ask any Vietnam-era veteran: It is never too late to greet a soldier with a hearty and heartfelt "Welcome Home!"

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