Marine Corp vet flies flag upside down in protest

Published On: Nov 11 2012 05:02:16 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 12 2012 11:05:18 AM EST

A Fleming Island man is flying his American flag upside down in what he calls free speech. His display is getting a lot of criticism from some neighbors who are upset by the upside down flag.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -

A Fleming Island man is flying his American flag upside down, saying its a sign that this country is in distress.

Jack Haggerty is a war veteran and says he is as American as anyone, but he thinks the nation is going in the wrong direction -- that we're upside down right now.  Hence, his very public display.

But his display is getting a lot of heat and criticism by neighbors. Several neighbors said they were upset with the upside down flag, but only one resident would talk on camera.

"I don't functionally see any difference between flying the flag upside down and hanging it," said neighbor Ron Thompson.

Thompson said he has known Haggerty for years and he's a good man, but this, he said, is a bad decision.

"I understand the sentiment behind it, but personally I don't believe in using the flag as a tool for personal protest. He's not in distress in the sense that he's not calling for help. He doesn't need police or the fire department," said Thompson.

"I'm more patriotic than anyone you'll ever come across," Haggerty told Channel 4's Vic Micolucci.

Haggerty said some neighbors have berated him for his statement.

"These people are telling me I'm not a patriot! Who are the kidding?" said Haggerty.

Haggerty said he's a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Korean War, brothers served in combat and one of them was killed in action.

Haggerty says he's American as anyone, but doesn't like the direction the country is heading, politically and economically.

"I'm flying the flag upside down because I feel the country's in distress. Worst distress since its inception in 1776. That's an international sign of distress, all counties use it," said Haggerty.

When WJXT posted the picture on Facebook and Twitter there were hundreds of responses; many were upset.

Jeanne Cameron said, "I see that picture as a slap in the face to EVERY Veteran who has served."

Juliet Sikora wrote, "you are sending a terrible message, it is quite disrespectful."

But just as many sided with Haggerty.

Jade Garcia wrote, "According to Supreme Court precedence, which supersedes the flag code, flag desecration is protected speech so long as it is "symbolic speech." As a Navy wife, I respect his right to free speech even on Veterans Day."

Timothy Voytko commented, "I have served so people can have free speech. We wouldn't need an amendment to protect if everyone agreed on everything."

Haggerty wants his neighbors to understand why he's doing this so he's handing out a letter to anyone who asks. [Read Haggerty's letter to neighbors]  It explains his military history and his views leading up to his decision.

Haggerty said the flag will be up until the end of the year.

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