The right thing - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

The right thing

Veteran questioned by deputies after removing flag that was in distress

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Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 12:15 am

HAYDEN - Richard Sciascia is a patriotic guy who knows how to treat an American Flag.

So the 33-year-old Iraq War veteran, who was medically retired due to combat injuries, couldn't stand by and do nothing when he saw Old Glory hanging upside down in distress. Especially not along Government Way, at Hayden Avenue, in the city he adopted as his home in 2009 because of its patriotism and conservative values.

"Hundreds of people saw the flag in that position all day long," Sciascia said. "We've gotten to the point where some people just turn a blind eye to things and expect other people to act and fix things."

What kind of example would his inaction set for his five children, ages 1, 3, 7, 8, 13? Also, it was Sunday on the Veterans Day weekend.

The rod connecting the flag to a light post was broken, creating a violation of flag etiquette, Sciascia said, who was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army.

With inaction not being an option he would allow himself, Sciascia was shocked to find out what happened when he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Here's what he said unfolded:

He had been driving with his children when they saw the flag upside down. He explained the proper flag etiquette to them, then predicted it would be fixed by the end of the day.

But Sunday evening, however, on the way to the gas station, it was still upside down.

So, he pulled his massive SUV, which is lifted with oversized wheels and tires, up on the curb next to the light post. He turned on his hazard lights, and got up on top of the cab. He spent the next 30 minutes working to release the flag from the broken rod.

He wasn't being sneaky, and he said he didn't interrupt traffic.

"They weren't even slowing down for me," he said.

His intent was to secure it, fold it properly, then return it to the city of Hayden at his first opportunity.

But, as he headed home, he was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy.

The patrol car's lights went on, along with a spotlight, and Sciascia pulled into a restaurant parking lot just north of Hayden Avenue on Government Way.

The first thing Sciascia said to the deputy, as he recalls, was, "Excuse me, what's this about?"

He was told someone had reported a theft of a flag. He was held up by deputies for 45 minutes, he said.

The situation ended OK.

"They were all great about it," he said.

He doesn't blame whoever called the authorities to report the flag "theft."

"They were trying to do the right thing," he said. "I was trying to do the right thing. It was quite embarrassing and humiliating."

Sciascia was diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease. He was told it was possibly the result of environmental conditions in Iraq, including burning trash. He has already had his large intestine removed and part of his small intestine.

He retired in September 2009, and moved to North Idaho. He said he chose North Idaho for its patriotism.

"That's why the circumstances were so baffling," he said.

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  • 19D3P posted at 9:57 pm on Fri, Nov 18, 2011.

    19D3P Posts: 2

    Some of these comments are quite disheartening, yet I respect their opinions. It just drives home an old familiar quote- "For Those Who Fought For Freedom, Freedom Has A Flavor The Protected Will Never Know".

  • BoxcarBill posted at 11:54 pm on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    BoxcarBill Posts: 1074

    The incredible power of icon. Religions have used it as an effective tool to control the minds of the masses for eons.
    As our once great nation continues it's descent further and further down the proverbial tubes, lead by our corrupt, bought by the highest bidder, government, we can take comfort in knowing our flag stands a good chance of being treated with all the respect it deserves.

  • Ziggy posted at 10:18 pm on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    Ziggy Posts: 1296

    Massive SUV? Why is this story even in the paper? Exactly: excess drama. And why would Idahoans be any more patriotic than people living in any other state? No one is fooling anyone. We all know why the retreat from the Sunny State to the South to the Frozen State to the North in their massive SUVs, four wheelers, motorcycles, etc. etc. etc. ad inf ad nausem

  • lyric21 posted at 7:32 pm on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    lyric21 Posts: 182

    Will all due respect, Mr. Sciascia was wrong. He noticed a flag flying upside down, because the "rod connecting the flag to a light post was broken". Maybe the "hundreds" of people passing by were too busy paying attention to driving and didn't see the flag. Perhaps some DID try to report it, on a SUNDAY. Instead of trying to report it himself, he took it upon himself to fix it, possibly putting himself or others in danger. Even though he pulled his "massive SUV" up on the curb, he could have distracted a driver, could have fallen off his SUV and caused an accident... The officer responding could have been hurt because of Mr Sciascia's actions. The flag was connected to a LIGHT POST, he could have gotten himself or someone else electrocuted. If he was embarrassed, he did it himself!

  • txrider posted at 2:48 pm on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    txrider Posts: 4

    Seems like excessive drama here. Since the gentleman sized up the flag pole problem so quickly why didn't he just make an easy phone call to the city to alert them? Or, he could just hope someone else would take care of the problem...which is what he did. Also, not sure what any of this has to do with conservative values. I think the moral to the story is if you see a problem that needs to be solved, get on the stick and take care of it.

  • westonr posted at 1:50 pm on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    westonr Posts: 20

    If you bother to take a look at the state of this country, then a flag upside down would be the proper way to display it. Unless you think everything is still wonderful, and our debt and incoming financial collapse will just go away with another war in Iran. If that's the case, there's not a lot of help that can be offered you.

  • RedHot posted at 12:57 pm on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    RedHot Posts: 13

    Crazy, did you not read??? City flag... on a light post... not on private property or at a business...

    Thank you Mr. Sciascia for your actions and for your service!

  • 986crazy posted at 10:34 am on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    986crazy Posts: 434

    Here's a thought, relax. I bet he has a cell phone. Call the owner and let them know the flagpole is messed up. The truth is he did steal the flag since he didn't have permission from the owner to remove it. I'm glad to see common sense from the Sheriff's Dept. in not arresting him for it though.

  • Old Hayden posted at 9:57 am on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    Old Hayden Posts: 33

    Let's not get hung up on conservative values here. I'm not a conservative but I certainly know how to display a flag and have done correctly since I was in the service in the sixties. (One elementary school gathers the flag in a big bundle and stuffs it in a janitor's closet at the end of the day; A local car dealer allowed the flag to trail on the ground for weeks; and a city government displayed the US flag below the Idaho state flag during city council, not Hayden.)

    Instead of taking direct action, how about empowering local civic organizations to provide flag etiquette instruction and assistance?

  • neighbor4u posted at 9:55 am on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    neighbor4u Posts: 136

    Thank you SSGT for your observance of the US Flag improperly flown and for your effort to right a wrong.
    Thanks much for servicing this great country. Wishing you the best of luck and God Bless you and your family....

  • JonUSMC posted at 7:49 am on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    JonUSMC Posts: 98

    And all this transpired without the use of a "night stick" and no injuries or death. What a difference in officers attitudes and common sense. Officers obviously used the time to figure out what was going on without jumping to conclusions. KUDOS to all. Makes me proud of our community.

  • Hayden Joe posted at 7:38 am on Thu, Nov 17, 2011.

    Hayden Joe Posts: 190

    Good on SSgt Sciascia and welcome to Hayden. You have shown through your actions to be a real "up front" guy, not just for your actions, but for your forgiving attittude. So many would be screeching and looking for a lawyer to sue over such an event. Thank you for your service!

    Good on the Deputy for making the inquiry and then behaving with reason once they learned all the facts and determined that the intent was a noble one indeed. I'm sure there was probably reason to issue a citation from a "technical" perspective. Thank you Deputy!

    Bad on any and all city employees who may have observed this flag and did not take action to correct it themselves. (Assuming any did in fact observe it)

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