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Public Statements

Delegates Plea for Justice

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I come to the floor with other Delegates to make a plea for respect that we are pleased to say that the House has already honored. Mr. Speaker, this House has seen many disagreements on many issues, and that's what the American people expect. We believe and the House has shown that it believes that some matters, however, are beyond dispute. There are some matters where unity is to be expected. These matters go to basic respect for our members of the armed services.

The House, to its great credit, has already demonstrated that respect, and I want first to thank the Delegate whose provision, whose amendment, was chiefly responsible, Delegate Gregorio Sablan from the Mariana Islands, whose amendment has, I believe, twice been put in the House defense authorization bill that requires that when the flags of the 50 States are raised or honored by our Armed Forces that the flags of the Territories and of the District of Columbia also are honored.

I want to also thank House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and Ranking Member Adam Smith for putting this provision in the defense authorization bill that is now pending. This bill will be considered, I suppose, in conference by the House and the Senate. It is in the House bill. We regret that it is not in the Senate bill, and so the Delegates and I have come to the floor to ask that the Senate follow the lead of the House on this matter of common courtesy and respect.

Delegate Sablan's provision in the House-passed bill simply requires that the flags of the Territories and of the District of Columbia be respected when the armed services choose to honor the flags of the 50 States. I have, in addition, written a letter to the President asking for a Presidential memorandum directing all Federal agencies including the Armed Services to do the same. I regret to report that the Army alone recognizes the D.C. flag and the flags of the Territories as a matter of policy. I want to give one example that I think will make the House understand why this is so important to us. A mother wrote me of having attended the graduation of her son from the Naval Station Great Lakes. She had wanted this boy to go to college. He had gotten admitted to college. He wanted to go to the Navy and so they said, to the Navy you will go. As graduation day came at the Naval Station Great Lakes and they called the names of the graduates one by one and they got to one name, Jonathan Rucker, and they called his name, the flag of every other graduate had been raised when the name of the graduate was called, but this young man, graduating from boot camp induction into the Navy, had his name called but his flag was not raised, the flag of the District of Columbia.

His parents were heartbroken, as you might imagine, and as the mother wrote me. It was from that example that I understood how very important this was and understood how important my fellow Delegate's bill, now adopted by the House, is. It was personal disrespect for the young man as he became a member of the United States Navy. It was disrespect for the District of Columbia flag. It was disrespect for the residents of this city who have served and died in every war that our country has ever fought, including the war that created the United States of America.

To let you know how much this means to those of us who have no vote but whose constituents pay taxes the same as the rest who are Members of this House and go to war, you now see the huge disproportion, at least in my own district. You will find this disproportion in the districts of the other Delegates as well.

World War I, 635 casualties, more than three States.

World War II, 3,575 casualties, more than four States.

Korea, 547 casualties, more than eight States.

These are all District of Columbia residents.

And from the Vietnam war, 243 D.C. casualties, more than 10 States.

We are calling on our Senate colleagues to follow the example of the House and include the language requiring the Armed Forces to fly the D.C. flag and the flag of the Territories whenever the flags of the 50 States are raised.

Mr. Speaker, we think that is far from too much to ask in light of the young men and women we represent who are in the Armed Forces today and those who have given their lives for the United States of America.

It is my privilege to ask the sponsor of the successful amendment, Delegate Sablan from the Northern Mariana Islands, if he would speak at this time.


Ms. NORTON. I thank you, Delegate Sablan, because you are the leader on this issue with your provision that you succeeded in getting included in the House Defense authorization bill.

May I inquire of the Speaker how much time we have remaining?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlelady has 14 minutes remaining.

Ms. NORTON. I thank you very much.

I did want to mention that Delegate Sablan indicated he had received these complaints from his constituents. That's how we know about this issue. The veterans, the members of the Armed Forces bring it to our attention. And he also mentioned that some commanders had the discretion as to whether or not to fly our flags. I note that Under Secretary of Defense Erin Conaton has indeed issued a memorandum to all parts of the armed services, and her word was that she ``encouraged'' but left to the ``discretion''--``encourage'' is her word, ``discretion'' are her words--of commanders whether to display the flags of the territories and the District of Columbia when the flags of the 50 States are displayed.


Washington, DC, August 28, 2012.

Subject: Display of District of Columbia and United States Territorial Flags during Official Ceremonies

Our Nation's Armed Forces are more diverse than ever, and brave men and women from all our states and territories continue to answer the Nation's call to duty. On these occasions where you intend to display the flags of all 50 states, I am urging you also to display the flags of the District of Columbia and United States (U.S.) territories. I especially encourage this practice as our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines graduate from entry level training.

This memorandum is not intended to affect the authority or discretion of commanders. Rather, it encourages the appropriate recognition of residents of the District of Columbia and U.S. territories at official ceremonies.
Erin C. Conaton.

Under Secretary of Defense for
Personnel and Readiness.

Now, I would ask the Undersecretary of Defense, I would ask the President of the United States, I would ask the Secretary of Defense whether there would ever be discretion left to a commander whether to fly the flags of Virginia or Utah or North Carolina or Florida. That would be considered an insult to those States; we consider it no less.

I'm pleased to yield time as well to the delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Congresswoman Christensen.


Ms. NORTON. You have heard movingly from three of my colleagues. I hope the Senate has been as moved as I was by hearing from them.

I want only to say now, Mr. Speaker, you've heard from all of us who are American citizens who represent American citizens and American citizens who fight and have fought for their country, who were pleased and continue to volunteer in disproportionate numbers into the Armed Forces, who are among the less than 1 percent, who carry all of us, who carry all of us on their shoulders. That's what the volunteer Army is all about today.

We've asked the Senate to do what we congratulate and commend and thank the House for having already done. Thank you, House of Representatives, for respecting our flags and for respecting us as representatives of the American people and of American veterans.

And I yield back the balance of my time.

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