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Nebraska Won't Recognize Honor And Remember Flag But Will Let It Fly At State Buildings

May 23, 2017

blob.pngflag made by johnin

LINCOLN — Families of fallen military members asked Nebraska senators this year to provide legal recognition to a special flag that honors their loved ones.

What they got is a legislative resolution that makes the Honor and Remember flag an official symbol of the state’s commitment to remember military personnel who died in service to their country.

Legislative Resolution 95 emerged last week as a compromise between senators who supported the flag bill and those who did not want to put the flag in state law. The Legislature voted 39-0 on Thursday to approve the flag resolution.

“I’m very grateful that they did something, but I’m disappointed the bill didn’t get through,” said Pat Mracek of Alliance, whose son, Army Sgt. Cory Mracek, was killed in 2004 by an improvised explosive device on an Iraqi road.

She also serves as co-chair of Honor and Remember Nebraska, which has given nearly 140 flags to families of those who died as a result of their service.

Most politicians eagerly get behind any proposal to honor fallen service members, but Legislative Bill 652 could not get the votes to advance out of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

That’s in part because an officer with the Nebraska Veterans Council — which represents seven veterans organizations in the state — testified against the bill. Greg Holloway said the groups felt it would set a bad precedent to put the flag in state statutes, because other organizations would want similar recognition for their flags.

Current law recognizes only three emblems: the American flag, the state flag and the POW/MIA flag.

Holloway last week testified in support of the flag resolution.

It was offered by Sen. Joni Craighead of Omaha with the support of Sen. Rick Kolowski, the Omaha lawmaker who sponsored the flag bill.

Kolowski said he sees the resolution almost like a pilot program. It will allow state buildings to display the flag if they so choose for the next year, which he thinks will increase public familiarity with the flag.

Kolowski added that he will likely sponsor the flag bill again next year.

Neither the resolution nor the bill requires that state buildings display the flag. For that reason, the bill generated no fiscal impact on the state budget.

Craighead, however, said she was uneasy that the Honor and Remember flag is copyrighted by an organization based in Chesapeake, Virginia.

George Lutz, founder and executive director of Honor and Remember Inc., said his organization is a tax-exempt nonprofit that works to educate the public about those who have sacrificed their lives to their nation. He started the organization in 2008, three years after his son, Army Cpl. George “Tony” Lutz II, was killed by sniper fire in Iraq.

The group presents hundreds of personalized flags to the families of the fallen service members each year. The hand-stitched flags, embroidered with the military member’s name and date of death, cost $350 but are provided free to the families, Lutz said.

The general public can purchase nylon printed versions of the flags from a number of retailers for $35 and up. Under licensing agreements, manufacturers pay a percentage of their proceeds back to the organization, Lutz said, which helps keep it viable.

Lutz said the copyright also allows the group to maintain the quality of the flags and to ensure that they are made in the United States.

He called the Nebraska resolution “a good first step” but added that he hopes lawmakers will pass a bill recognizing the flag next year. He said a dozen states have passed bills according official status to the flag, while 11, including Nebraska, have passed resolutions.

“My ultimate goal is that it flies for the reason it exists, and that is for the public recognition of the fallen and their families,” Lutz said.