Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Update on Patriotic Girl, Rachel, in Duluth, GA

Hey, guys & gals.. I'm VERY glad to report this update after my initial post yesterday. The AJC reported a new story today, reporting what's going on now. According to the AJC writer, Steve Visser:
Fourth-grader Rachel Renbarger learned a civics lesson about Old Glory the hard way, but some in Duluth hope she taught adults a lesson about taking responsibility.
"I learned a lot about the flag and how to use it and how not to use it," Rachel said Tuesday. "I respect the flag more than I used to."

Vino Wong / AJC
'I learned a lot about the flag and how to use it and how not to use it,' says Rachel Renbarger (left), who with sister Leah, 7, helped paint a flag on a street in their Duluth neighborhood.
Monday night, Rachel stood before the Duluth City Council, her eyes tearing and voice cracking, and said she and her 7-year-old sister, Leah, had helped paint a huge flag on her neighborhood cul-de-sac and they would remove it. Her actions won admiration from adults and attention from the media.
On Tuesday, CBS and other media outlets contacted the 9-year-old's family seeking interviews.

Parents in her neighborhood had organized the painting as part of a Fourth of July celebration last year. It sparked controversy when some neighbors worried it was jingoistic, and others said it did not show proper respect for the flag.
After school Tuesday, Rachel explained that she and her dad had researched flag etiquette before the council meeting. They learned that an 81-year-old World War II veteran was right to demand the painting be removed because it violated rules protecting the dignity of the flag.
"I knew before the meeting he was right and this was a mistake," Rachel said. "I told him I was sorry and, after that, I shook his hand."
Duluth resident Don Ogden, a prisoner in Germany after his bomber was shot down, praised Rachel's courage and candor for stepping up at the council meeting.
He called the council members and mayor a "little chicken" for recommending that the Stars and Stripes be removed because it defaced public property and could set a legal precedent for street paintings of offensive symbols, such as swastikas.
The politicians, who hail from a Gwinnett County city of 23,000 that proudly displays 600 flags on patriotic holidays, could learn from Rachel how to take responsibility for their actions, Ogden said.
"I love that little girl," Ogden said. "I feel bad because I became their enemy."
Richard Hutchinson, a Vietnam War veteran who organized the painting of the flag, has said the city should leave it alone out of respect for both the flag and the neighborhood's wishes. His wife, Linda, asked the council to take a forgive-and-forget approach to the painting.
Rachel's parents, Randy and Jill Renbarger, said they supported the council's recommendation to remove the painting by April 1.
The Hutchinsons offered to lead the cleanup.
In July, Rachel and Leah painted the stripes the day before the July 4 parade. Nearly 50 children participated in the parade, which ended at the painting on Whitney Place. Each of the children painted one of the 50 stars, Randy Renbarger said.
The Renbargers were surprised when they learned last month that City Administrator Phil McLemore had agreed to order the image removed.
"We didn't mean for it to become a civics lesson, but it turned out to be one," said Randy Renbarger, as he beamed at his eldest daughter.
"I was really proud of her when she stood up at the meeting. She spoke the truth, and she took responsibility."
This may not be the end, but it's at least a great start! I'm starting a personal campaign to see if I can find a local flag pole company who will donate not only a pole, but a flag, and the installation of same on the family's property! I really appreciate you all coming forward to voice your support. I still disagree with the way it was initially handled; but I'm glad the vet Ogden came around and himself found sorrow in the fact he caused her guilt.
I'll keep everybody aprised of what happens here. If I get permission to post her mailing address, I'll also do so here, because I'd like ALL of you to send her your words of support! We need more young Americans like this who are committed to the love of the greatest nation on earth!

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