Tomi Rucker eagerly watched her son graduate earlier this year from the Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago.
She was overcome with emotion, seeing “the baby I sent to the United States Navy,” she recalled. “He was a man now.”
But the proud moment was somewhat dampened as other parents stood each time a state flag was displayed to represent the graduates.
Seaman Jonathan Rucker is from D.C. “This can’t be. There was no flag for D.C.,” recalled Tomi Rucker, an investigator with the District’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. “I was hurt.”
Turns out there is no law that requires the flag of the nation’s capital to be displayed at such ceremonies — a discrepancy Rucker immediately tried to rectify by contacting Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a provision that would require the armed forces to display the D.C. flag when all 50 states are exhibited.
At a news conference Monday at the D.C. War Memorial, Norton, Rucker, Mayor Vincent C. Gray and city leaders urged Senate Democrats to place the provision in the 2013 Defense authorization bill. Norton also said she wants President Obama to require federal agencies to do the same by issuing a memorandum. “Today, once and for all, we ask the President to wipe clean this disrespect from the practices of any and all federal agencies so that Jonathan Rucker’s citizenship is fully acknowledged, whether he is in uniform or back at home as a civilian in his hometown, the nation’s capital,” Norton said.
The incident renewed calls for budget autonomy and a voting member in Congress. “The degradation of our city continues,” Gray (D) said.
Norton recalled other fights to get the District recognized, such as a commemorative coin to honor District native Duke Ellington and a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.
Rucker praised the Navy, saying she did not want her sentiments to be misconstrued as unpatriotic. Her son is on the USS Blue Ridge in Japan. “It’s just that flag issue. It’s huge for us. We’re fourth-generation Washingtonians,” she said. “We love this city.”