A few days ago, this newspaper carried a dispatch from Waukegan that began with these words:
"The Star Spangled Banner waves over the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, but the national anthem singing its praise has been silenced at the base movie theater."
It used to be the custom to play the anthem before the start of every evening's entertainment.But one night a few catcalls and jeers broke out among the audience in the darkened theater, and thereafter the show of disrespect became standard operating procedure. The anthem was booed every night.
Adm. Charles Gurney III was furious. He ordered the playing of the anthem stopped "for as long as I am commander here," and added disgustedly, "The punks won."
When Maj. John M. Alley of Alexandria read those lines, he reacted to them pretty much as I had. "To say I was shocked would be an understatement," he wrote.
"What the commander should have done was to close the theater until assurances were received that the audience would act properly. I think more should be done about this."
I agree wholeheartedly.
Recruits in basic training are not permitted to attend the theater at Great Lakes. Those in attendance, from whose ranks the disorderly conduct emanated, were personnel in the technical training school, the base staff, and their dependants.
They should have known better. They should have had the decency to show respect for the government that pays them, feeds then and houses them.
Lt. Cherie Davis, a public information officer at the base, seemed annoyed that the public expects that "people in the service should have one standard of conduct and the civilian population should have another." She said people in the civilian community had been brought up to show disrespect for the flag and the anthem. "You've seen them at sporting events," she said. "They jeer, they slouch, they talk, they throw popcorn and spit during the national anthem."
What she said is true. Some civilians do act like uncivilized animals, not only during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner but throughout their lives. But what does that have to do with the respect that a serviceman should show the flag to which he has taken an oath of allegiance? And what does it have to do with the respect that should be shown by a civilian employed by the military, or by his family?
Does Lt. Davis have any conception of what a military PIO's function is supposed to be? Is Adm. Gurney the most effective commander the Navy could find for this assignment?
I am thoroughly disgusted with the episode at Great Lakes and with the entire subject of disrespect to our nation and its symbols.
I wish the people who are so determined to show public disrespect for this country would go live in a country that suits them better and leave this one to those of us who thank God for granting us the blessings of liberty that flow from our American citizenship.
Your punks may have won, admiral, but if punks ever become a majority in this country they'll find out in short order what they've really won. They're not going to like that, either.