When you disparage our flag you demean our heroes, their sacrifice

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Matthew S. Coutu (Courtesy photo)

On June 27, 2005, a lone assassin shot and killed my son, 2nd Lt. Matthew S. Coutu. He did not die instantly but bled out while being transported to the U.S. Army hospital in Baghdad. The pain of such a personal loss is exacerbated by knowing that he was well aware he was mortally wounded, drifting into death.

Matt is a hero but not because he fought for our country and died in battle. He fought and died because he was a hero. He willingly served our nation, following in my footsteps (Marine Corps/Vietnam) and that of his grandfather (US Navy/World War II); a family which believes that the chalice of Democracy must be defended against all who seek to destroy it. Matt was a young man who lived his life with honor and high purpose. The Iraqi conflict commenced while he was in ROTC yet it did not deter him from staying the course of duty and responsibility he embarked upon. I lost more than a son on June 27th, I lost one of my heroes.

That day is forever burned in the memory of those who loved Matthew. He made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and the values we cherish but sadly so many Americans take for granted. As is often said, home of the free because of the brave.

I have no argument with those who wish to peacefully protest. Indeed, my son fought and died to protect our right to disagree. To exercise our right under the First Amendment is the bedrock of democracy.

However, does such freedom grant the right to desecrate the most treasured symbols of America -- our flag and national anthem? Has not enough blood been shed by those who gave all to defend our nation and the principles of our democracy?

Recently, New Hampshire House Democrats refused to stand for the national anthem at the final session of the legislature. Among those who knelt or remained seated were state Representatives Lisa Bunker of Exeter, along with Willis Griffith and Nicole Klein-Knight.

This wasn't the first act of disrespect for our nation's most treasured hallmarks. During the June 30, 2020, session of the House, Representatives Timothy Horrigan, Catherine Sofikitis and Wendy Thomas refused to stand; they chose instead to dishonor our flag, which with its stars and stripes most symbolizes the unity of 50 states under one nation - the United States. Following that incident, Thomas released a statement saying, "This morning, this photo ran in an AP article that has apparently been published around the nation," she continued "I am proud of my stance and I intend to frame this photo. 'Hey kids, take a look, if your mom can send a statement, then you can too.'"

How juvenile. The self-centered actions of Thomas exhibit grandstanding and egotism, not patriotism. I highly doubt that she has served to defend our country or lost a family member who gave his or her life on the field of battle. The cost of freedom is not free and only the very few are willing to serve in harm's way to protect, defend and assure the freedom so many take for granted.

That Sen. Maggie Hassan has chosen to endorse Thomas and support her campaign, by extension makes her complicit in the disrespect advocated under the guise of freedom of expression, a right made sacrosanct by the blood of our fallen heroes and not the pettiness of those who believe that dishonoring our nation is a proper way to call attention to the injustice and racial prejudice that regrettably continues.

A handful of years ago, while serving as governor, Hassan attended the 9/11 Memorial sponsored by Hampton-based American Legion Post 35. Following the ceremony, we chatted a bit during which she expressed sorrow for the loss of my son. She went on to say that the loss of America's finest in the cause of freedom is what makes America great. Given her support of Thomas, that comment now rings hollow. As my mother often said, I will tell you what you are by the friends you associate with. In supporting Thomas, Hassan has chosen poorly and, more importantly, it is demonstrative of her political alignment with those who seek to destroy the very values that made America great.

This letter was first published in the Union Leader of Manchester.

- Michael A. Coutu,

Rye Beach.

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