When a veteran started offering traditional remarks at a military flag-folding ceremony, several uniformed airmen assaulted him, dragging him out of the room because his remarks mentioned God. Now First Liberty Institute lawyers representing retired Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez are demanding that the U.S. Air Force apologize and punish those responsible or face a federal civil-rights lawsuit.
For countless years, service members have given the “flag-folding speech” at military and civic events, including retirement ceremonies. Traditionally, this speech explains the colors, symbols, and history of the flag.
The flag-folding speech also contains several religious references, including, “Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempts to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery. It is this one nation under God that we call, with honor, the United States of America.”
The speech closes with, “God bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.”
In 2005, the Pentagon changed the speech to remove all references to the divine, substituting additional historical facts such as Neil Armstrong’s planting of an American flag on the moon in 1969. But many service members prefer the traditional speech and desire that version given at their own retirement celebrations.
Rodriguez retired from the Air Force in 2013 after 33 years of service to his nation. He has a clear and distinctive voice and is frequently asked to deliver the flag-folding speech at retirement ceremonies.
On April 3, 2016, Master Sergeant Charles Roberson was retiring from active duty. Roberson had heard Rodriguez give his stirring rendition of the traditional flag-folding speech and asked Rodriguez if he would give that speech at Roberson’s retirement celebration at Travis Air Force Base where Roberson served in the 749th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
According to a demand letter sent by First Liberty Institute on Monday, when the squadron’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sovitsky, learned that Rodriguez would give the traditional speech mentioning God, he expressed his opposition and allegedly tried to block it. As Roberson explained in a video interview seen for the first time on Breitbart News, Roberson asked Rodriguez to press forward.
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