The founder of Wreaths Across America plans to build the world's tallest flagpole in Washington County. Credit: Courtesy of Flagpole of Freedom Park

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Charles Kniffen of Lubec is a combat-wounded veteran of the Vietnam War and the author of “Fifty Years in a Foxhole.”        

Does Washington County really need the “world’s largest flagpole”? Morrill Worcester and company are already planting wreaths on gravestones across the country, waving flags every Tuesday, and reminding passersby on Route 1 of the exact words of the Pledge of Allegiance that we all learned in elementary school. Surely a few have forgotten the text, but to see every phrase hammered onto a post, in both directions, for nearly a mile causes the message to become little more than the drivel of insecure Americans flailing in the fear that the traditions of this beautiful country are being lost.

Maybe a few traditions (elective wars?) we could afford to let go. I maintain my sanity and curb my ire at the disrespectful intrusion into my drive down an otherwise pleasant stretch of highway by pretending that I am a draft-horse wearing blinders. Foolishness is my defense against the sheer trembling rage I feel within at these grotesquely intrusive modalities of free expression.

If that big pole and giant flag go up, I will wear a hat with a large bill to block the sight of such a monstrous testimony to misspent money (a billion dollars?), a beautiful wooded tract trammeled by roads, manicured grounds, and nine miles of wall to “honor” all the vets lost during our various wars.

Veterans are largely a humble lot and the respect of our families, neighbors and local community is plenty sufficient, thank you. I have made few plans for the disposal of my remains:  burnt, buried at sea, or planted in a little plot are all good. The one thing I asked for was: “Please please, don’t bury me in Worcester’s graveyard.”

I attend a biweekly meeting of a dozen local combat veterans; these are the veterans I listen to. Whenever you see the word “billion” and “dollars” in the same sentence, be wary that someone is taking home a hefty paycheck.

This proposed extravaganza is purported to be “apolitical.” Regardless of political persuasion, it looks like an effort to cash in on the flag fetish of America grown beyond all bounds of reason and discretion and far beyond any claim to respect.  

The American flag demands and deserves respect as testimony to the honor, courage, self-sacrifice, and spiritual values which we all hold dear. I have fired my weapon in a 21-gun salute as the folded flag was handed to the family of a fallen warrior while serving on the Admiral’s Guard at the Newport Naval Station. Respect is not adoration, worship, or idolatry.

This proposed giant flagpole is an affront to any honest show of respect for our veterans and is a sensational bauble offered to a population that quails in guilt over the way veterans, particularly of the Vietnam war, were treated. No one wants to speak out against any effort, regardless of how inane or self-aggrandizing it appears for fear of being viewed as non-patriotic and worse anti-American.


Veterans do not need a theme park. They are people who have struggled, fought, and died to see this country flourish, in freedom, in harmony, and with the promise of prosperity. The efforts to idolize and immortalize veterans as heroes goes contrary to their very effort. Washington County has a large concentration of veterans in Maine — because it is remote, quiet, and peaceful. A giant flagpole marring the beauty of our land and beckoning with an unsightly frenzy of flags to persons from afar is no honor.