CHICAGO (CBS) — The American flag flying high above an Edgewater high-rise was intended to be an honorable gesture, but extensive wear and tear had it looking much less than its best.
From his home in Edgewater, Patrick Hughes has a distracted view. The American flag atop the iconic Edgewater Beach Apartments is in tatters, with a huge rip that nearly splits it in half; Old Glory barely holding on to her name, blowing in the wind just across the way.
“I’m less angry than annoyed by this,” Hughes said. “This is disrespectful.”
Waving in about three pieces, the tattered flag flies in plain sight of the thousands of motorists who drive up and down Lake Shore Drive every day.
“The last time someone saw a flag that beat up, they wrote a song about it,” Hughes said, referring to the flag Francis Scott Key wrote about as the stars and stripes held it together during a British attack on Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.
CBS 2 didn’t have to look too far to find other flags on display in Chicago in various states of disrepair; including outside Oscar Mayer Magnet School and at government buildings.
“How do the veterans who are going up and down Lake Shore Drive feel?” Hughes said.
One veteran, Stephen York, said, “It shouldn’t be.”
York, who served in the 196th Infantry Brigade during the Vietnam War, remembers the comfort the flag brought him.
“It’s a sacred thing, the flag,” he said. “When I was overseas, coming back to basecamp to see that flag would make me feel a lot safer.”
Typically, damaged flags are retired by folding and burning them and burying the ashes; and most VFW posts will help to do that properly. The U.S. flag code has rules for the display and care of the flag, but the federal law is rarely enforced, turning often well-intentioned displays into a flap.
“In my opinion, don’t fly a flag at all if it’s going to look like that,” York said.
The Edgewater Beach Apartments did not respond to questions about the flag, but did replace it.
The flag outside Oscar Mayer School also was replaced after inquiries from CBS 2, but school officials did not explain why the old flag had been allowed to fly after it had torn.