U.S. flags fly high on Causeway

Laurel Cebra and Richard Cross, two members of the Naples American Flag Fund, stand on the boardwalk where rows of U.S. flags hang from the streetlamps on Saturday. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Laurel Cebra loves the American flag.

Her goal has been two-fold: To demonstrate this town’s pride and patriotism with rows of the “Stars and Stripes” flying high along the entire Causeway. Secondly, every Flag Day she dresses as Betsy Ross and teaches elementary school children about the flag’s history and the proper etiquette for treating it.

After watching the movie The Bucket List in 2008, Cebra vowed that she would spend the remainder of her time on earth installing and protecting the American Flag on Naples’ main street.

Recently, she was shocked to see that light poles had been fitted with brackets to hang the newly-ordered ”Welcome to Naples” banners — and when erected, those banners would be flying above the American flag.

This would be considered an act of disrespect according to the etiquette and codes for our nation’s flag, she said.

Cebra and Richard Cross, both members of the Naples American Flag Fund, made emotional pleas to the Causeway Restoration Committee (CRC) members during their August meeting.

“All codes say nothing is to fly above the American flag. To fly something above it is a dishonor,” Cebra said.

“This is about what code is being violated. We hope you all do the right thing,” she said.

Then, Cross spoke to the committee.

“No banner is to be mounted above the flag,” he said.

“That shows everyone who comes through our town that we are proud Americans, and we are a proud town,” said Cross, who paused momentarily as sentiment and heartfelt patriotism choked his voice.

The American flags flying along the Causeway “represent how our town looks, and that it is dedicated to freedom. We remember our brothers and sisters who fought to keep this town and this country free,” he said.

Recently, Cebra and Cross had discovered that the brackets to hold the welcome banners had been placed on the streetlamp poles — above the American flags that had been flying since the Bay of Naples Bridge opening in May. Those brackets were installed about two feet above the mounted flags. But, the banners had not yet been hung.

The original idea was to keep the American flags tipped toward the street, and the welcome banners would also face Route 302’s traffic.

However, after hearing the ardent concerns from Cebra and Cross, the residents who sit on the CRC had a quick change of heart.

“There was a decision made, but it can be changed,” CRC Chairman Bob Neault said.

A new solution was offered: The “Star-Spangled Banner” would greet the sky on every other pole. On alternating poles, the vividly colored “Welcome to Naples” banners would wave on existing brackets while the Maine State flag flew below. As far as everyone understood, there is no code that forbids another flag or banner from being lifted above the state’s flag.

Also, on the poles that will support the American flags, the already-installed brackets would be removed. Then, plugs would be put in the holes left behind to reduce water damage to the galvanized steel.

Shortly after Cebra and Cross finished speaking, Neault explained the adherence to American flag codes from a legal perspective.

“Let me weigh in on it. There is no federal law that dictates how the flag is displayed. There is a code; and the code is an advisory code,” he said.

“The only code has to do with military regulations. The military regulations were pulled together for civilians’ display of flags,” he said.

Because there are no penalties attached to incorrectly displaying or treating the American flag, the codes have never become law, Neault said. He predicted that the U.S. Congress was unlikely to ever pass a law that forced citizens to follow American flag codes, and such an act would fly in the face of the freedoms given to Americans.

Then, committee member Dan Allen responded to the discussion to change the vote on where to place the town’s welcome banners.

“I am a Veteran,” he began.

“Why would we even want to consider this if it could be in the wrong? If someone drove through town and we upset them, why would we want to do that?” Allen said.

Why hang anything above the American flag “if it is a question of offending any Veteran or anyone? If you guys are this passionate” other people are likely to feel the same way, he said.

“It has brought a light to my head. There are a whole lot of people who would be upset,” Allen said.

Earlier in the meeting, Town Manager Derek Goodine told Cebra and Cross when he secured a grant for the Naples American Flag Fund he made them promise to follow the flag codes, which is something Cebra had researched thoroughly. So, the CRC should follow suit.

“It actually irritates me when I drive through a town, and they allow the sun to set on the flag without a light on it,” Goodine said.

Prior to the unanimous vote to place the American flags on alternate poles, a committee member asked Cebra if she was pleased with the outcome — the resolution that was being offered.

“It sounds like we are going to come to a compromise. Yes, I am pleased,” Cebra answered.


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