The VigilanceVoice

Friday -- June 14, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 275
Flag Day Isn't Vigilance Day For
Makers Of World's Largest
U.S. Duct Tape Flag
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

      GROUND ZERO, New York City, June 14--
Flag Day is a little more "sticky" this year because of a guy named Todd Scott.  
      He’s the 30-year-old biologist who came up with the idea in 1999 of making things out of duct tape—like clothing, flowers, cakes, liberty bells, animals and real life figures such as Babe Ruth.

World's biggest duct tape flag

  Three months ago he launched his most ambitious project—creating the world’s largest American Flag made entirely of duct tape.  
      He unveiled it Thursday (June 13) at Union Square Park, New York City.  The creation measures 50x90 feet, weighs 500 pounds and consumed 1,120 rolls of 20-yard tape—equal to more than 13 miles.  (Note:  The world's largest "standard flag" measures 255x505 feet and weighs 3,000 pounds.  It was hung from Hoover Dam)
      The flag’s unveiling kicked off Flag Day, and was also used to promote the U.S. Army’s 227th anniversary.
       There was only one problem.  Todd Scott and the U.S. Army who presided over the world's largest duct tape flag unveiling avoided any comment or tribute to Nine Eleven, and offered no salute to the heroes or victims of the September 11 attack on U.S. security. Instead, they used the time to promote and sell duct tape!
       “No, it had nothing to do with Nine Eleven,” stated Tara Seid, spokesperson for Marina Maher Communications when I specifically asked why there was such a distinct exclusion of any comments or tributes by either the military spokesmen present, or Todd Scott, regarding the tragic events of September 11. 
        “We had the idea before September 11,” Ms. Seid restated when I pressed her on why there were no comments about Nine Eleven, or dedication of the flag to the memories of those who had heroically given their lives that day.  “We did it solely for Flag Day—not for Nine Eleven,” she reiterated.
         I was deeply bothered by the obvious exclusion of any tribute--especially by the U.S. Army who dominated the ceremonies.  The Army promoted the benefits of duct tape and highlighted their 227th anniversary while ignoring honoring the spirits of those who died for the flag on September 11.
        The oversight made me shudder.  It was a flagrant example of Complacency in my book--the kind that opens the door to more Terrorism as we slowly drift away from "remembering not to forget" to "forgetting."
        Flag Day to me is Vigilance Day.   It is the day we raise Old Glory to announce to all the Osama bin Ladens of the world that America can not be Intimidated by Terrorism—that our “colors don’t run.”
        However, to the U.S. Army and Todd Scott, Flag Day was Complacency Day.
        Prior to Todd Scott mounting the stage in his red duct tape jacket to unveil the duct tape flag, a U.S. army reserve captain, dressed in full uniform, took the stage and began promoting duct tape.   He told how the army had used it since World War II, and shined on about its virtues.   He rattled off statistics about how many times all the duct tape ever sold would wrap around the world multiple times, or how much it took to cover Manhattan, and how the U.S. Army relied on duct tape to "stick things together."
       I stood scratching my head, wondering where this guy came from.   In thirteen months in Vietnam, and over 100 combat operations, I never once remember using duct tape for anything.  But, according to the U.S. Army spokesman, it sounded like I slept with in my foxhole.
      Just when I thought the water's were safe from having to swallow more duct tape information, the captain introduced Brigadier General John R. Hawkins, III. (right) As the general mounted the stage I braced myself for a speech about the bravery and courage of Americans fighting Terrorism, and perhaps a moment of silence for those who had fallen just a few blocks away at the World Trade Center--Soldiers of Vigilance fighting for the red-white-and-blue.
       To my amazement and discern, the general also waxed on about the glory of duct tape.   He extolled its virtues in World War II and mentioned in passing that it was being used by the military in Afghanistan.     He went on to illustrate how important duct tape was, and how he had used it to help fix a broken propeller on his private boat.
        I couldn’t believe what I wasn’t hearing.
        High above the flag on both the northeasterly and southeasterly corners of the flag were two elevated platforms loaded with news media.  Television cameras were set up, filming the event, photographers were snapping shots right and left—and the general never once mentioned September 11 or the responsibility each American has to stand up against Terrorism.
         Instead, he touted the 60th anniversary of the creation of duct tape, and, how Flag Day also marked the 227th anniversary of the U.S. Army.
        I was stunned by the general’s lack of respect for the heroes of Nine Eleven.  Nearly 3,000 brave Americans died for the U.S. flag in one of our nation’s most horrific attacks in history.   Historically, more people died on Nine Eleven than on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.   But the general made no comment or even inference that the world's largest duct tape flag had any relation to those who lives were lost or sacrificed in the attack.
         At the absolute least, he should have saluted the firemen, police and emergency workers who gave their lives as any brave soldier in any war that day.  But he singled out no one for tribute.  He was bent on promoting duct tape.
         In contrast, the evening before I had been inside the fire station of Engine 33, Ladder Company 9, going over some information with Lt. Bob LaRocco.  LaRocco survived the collapse of the south tower while all around him were killed, and then survived the second tower's collapse.   Flags dot his fire station everywhere you turn.   They remind all those who go to daily battle against fire, that if they die, it will not be in vain.   The American flag will fly in honor of them, even, I thought, a duct tape flag.
        Frankly, I was ashamed and embarrassed at the exclusion of any comments honoring our Nine Eleven heroes..
        For those present, and the media, it appeared that one of our senior U.S. military officers was far more interested in promoting the sale of duct tape than in promoting the defense and Vigilance necessary to keep our nation safe.  For a fleeting moment, I thought the general might be on the duct tape payroll.   If so, he was out of uniform.   A United States Army Brigadier General, in my opinion, has no right to crumble his public status as a Warrior of Vigilance for that of Salesman of Duct Tape.  
         But I did give Todd Scott credit for creating the flag even if his intent was more commercial than patriotic. 
       His product—the world’s largest American Duct Tape Flag—sent a bold signal around the world to Terrorism, even if he didn’t plan it to.  
         I figured if Osama bin Laden was watching CNN he would stomp his feet in anger.  “Look, these American people…they still think their country is the best…they are making flags out of duct tape!   Their will is incredible.   Perhaps we underestimated the civilians.   But we sure didn’t the military.  Look at that general.  He’s selling tape.   He’s telling everyone how he used duct tape to fix the rudder of his boat.  Ha!  What a joke.  No wonder they cannot find me!  They are too busy selling duct tape.”
        As a former Marine and combat veteran, I learned to love the American flag and everything it represents.   Perhaps that's why I was so disappointed in the general's lack of emphasis or tribute to the fallen heroes of Nine Eleven.   The U.S. Flag has always been the source of inspiration for people fighting for its principles.
         In Vietnam, just before a big battle, Lieutenant Colonel Leon Utter, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, would gather us under the thatched roof of the makeshift battalion chapel to pray before we faced our enemy.  He gave us a motivational talk, just as any coach would a championship team about to hit the gridiron.   He knew, as well as we, that not all of us would return.  
       To drive any lingering ounces of Terrorism from us—such as a drop of Fear here, a chunk of Intimidation there-- he would grab the American Flag with one hand, ball it up in his fist and shove it toward us.  With the other hand he would hold up the Bible.
       “Lots of great men died for these threads,” he would say.   “They weren’t afraid to die either.  They believed in what these colors stand for—the red for the blood of those who fought for our freedom, the white for the purity of our purpose, and the blue for the prosperity that freedom offers all who fight for it.    If some of us die today, we will die for the glory of the flag—our blood will become part of this flag's fabric—we will never be forgotten for our sacrifice. I will never forget, you will never forget, and no other Marine will ever forget you gave your life for Liberty, for Freedom.   Now, let’s go kill them before they kill us!”
        In battle, I always saw the flag flying just ahead, urging us forward, giving us a reason to fight to the last man for what we believed.  Despite the critics of the Vietnam War, we believed all the citizens of that land had the right to be free of Terrorism of all shapes and sizes.  But Vietnam was an unpopular war. 

 People burned the flag and spat upon it.   It was troubled times—however, the flag endured.  It lasted long enough for Todd Scott to build one of duct tape.   It lasted long enough to be flown with pride and dignity over all parts of America and the world after September 11.
        The pictures of the three firemen raising the flag at Ground Zero ranks with equal honor to the one Joe Rosenthall took at Iwo Jima as the Marines hoisted the flag on top of Mount Suribachi.
        After I returned from war, I took the power of the U.S. Flag with me into business.
         I was fortunate enough to be part of a team that spearheaded the franchising concept in America.  I was the senior vice president of marketing for Century 21 International Real Estate.  We grew from a handful of offices in 1972 to over 7,500 in 1980.  We were larger than McDonald’s, and boasted more than 10% of all the real estate sales in America—representing $50 billion in gross product sales.  Our sales force exceeded 100,000.
        Part of my adventure in the franchise business included traveling  from town to town across America, giving lectures on the Great American Dream—the right to own your own business, to be the captain of your own financial destiny.  I carried with me a number of U.S. Flags--the original 13-star version, standard U.S. Flags and military flags--those with the gold fringe.   They would adorn the walls wherever I spoke.   The audience would be surrounded by Old Glory.
      During my talks,  I took a page from Colonel Utter’s speeches, and clutched the flag, as he would have, reminding my audiences that ultimate freedom meant owning your own business.   In my other hand I held a Declaration of Independence.
        I related to each attendee that he or she was a franchisee of America.   And how the word “disenfranchised” meant one lost his or her citizenship, and all the benefits that go along with it.  I emphasized that to maintain our nation’s strength; we must fight for the competitive edge not only in war, but also in business.  I spoke of how many died to offer individuals the right of private ownership, and that owning one's own business was a fundamental right, guaranteed under the U.S. Flag for those willing to take the risks involved.
         I sold many franchises because I believed then, as I do now, that our American flag stands for a lot more than mere duct tape.  I believe it symbolizes the backbone of Freedom, and its power comes from those who are willing to die so others may be the benefactors of its principles.
         At Ground Zero on May 30, as I marched with the family members up West Street, following the flag-draped stretcher inside an ambulance.  It symbolized the last remains of the last fallen warrior of Nine Eleven.   I thought of that stretcher passing by as the general went on about duct tape.  I wondered why he "forgot to remember."  
         I had hoped the general would say:  "America is proud of all the heroes who have given their lives for our country.  This duct tape flag is the world's largest of its kind.  But to express your appreciation for what America stands for, the size of the flag you wear or appreciate isn't important.  Even a small American Flag on your lapel carries the same power as the world's largest duct tape flag.  When you wear the U.S. Flag, or honor it, you are wearing the blood of tens of thousands  who died for your Freedom.   Just down the way at Ground Zero, on September 11, twenty-eight hundred of your fellow citizens died.   Their memories join the other brave, courageous Americans who are represented in the weave of each American Flag.   So as we dedicate this duct tape flag, let's take a moment of silence and respect for all those who gave their lives throughout history so that this flag could be here today."
         But there was an absence of such words from the general's mouth.   His silence on the issue left me feeling empty.   I could hear the Sentinels of Vigilance moaning, sorrowful that those in attendance, especially the children, had no reference to the flag's real power or might. 
         The general's lack of commentary, his lack of respect for the true meaning of the flag was more than an oversight—it represented a syndrome so many falls into so quickly.   That is the syndrome of forgetting to remember.  The syndrome of Complacency.
        Today, on Flag Day, I hope everyone salutes the flag out respect for those who gave their lives for everyone’s freedom.  I hope when they read about the world's largest duct tape flag, they will make up for the general's lack of respect--and issue a moment of silence for all the blood of all the Soldiers of Vigilance that flows through each and every flag.
        After the ceremonies, I chose not to salute the general.  I assumed his uniform was made of non-regulation duct tape.

    (Note:   Below are linked pages below offering various pictures of flags taken since September 11 by the author in and around New York City.   Each flag represents a symbol of Vigilance.   Each is a signpost, telling Terrorism that Fear, Intimidation and Complacency will be whipped by the fluttering Flags of Vigilance  fueled by America’s Courage, Conviction and Right Action.   Interspersed, you will also note some excellent flags taken off the web.)




Go To June 13--Fighting For The Flag Of Vigilance

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