Veteran brings attention to how flag should be respected at local games

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Some local veterans were disappointed with how the U.S. flag was handled at a Valencia and Atrisco High School football game last month.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Tachias and his wife, Rowena, requested a place on the agenda for the Oct. 8 Los Lunas Board of Education meeting.

Their concern wasn't what the kids did or didn't do, but about what school officials were teaching students regarding the correct protocol for handling the U.S. flag, they said.

"I fear that Los Lunas School District is breeding a culture of apathy," Rowena Tachias said.

During the opening of the game, Valencia High School football players were not on the field when the Junior ROTC posted the colors and the National Anthem was sung. They were in the locker room getting ready up for the game.

After the song, the team ran out onto the field carrying the state, national and school flags. When they put the flags down along the fence, the U.S. flag, which should be positioned highest, was lower than the state flag.

Superintendent Bernard Saiz said different schools have different protocols throughout the country for gearing up for sports games, and no disrespect was intended.

"(The University of New Mexico) and New Mexico State do not have their players out during the National Anthem," Saiz said. "In fact, the New Mexico Military Institute does not have their players standing out during the National Anthem."

"If this has become common place among schools, whether in our state or nationwide, then I have problem with what is being taught," Rowena Tachias said. "I'm here to hold you accountable for allowing these things to happen …. Our kids don't know flag etiquette, and it starts with our administrators."

Since the Valencia-Artrisco game, there has been training on how to handle the U.S. flag, Saiz said.

"We did change the process," he said. "For the last the few games that have been held at both Valencia and Los Lunas high schools, the players are out standing for the National Anthem."

Veteran Michael Tachias said he can never forget his first tour of combat where 14 of his troops were killed, and that the U.S. flag represents the American people and soldiers who have fought for the country.

"I'm glad you guys are making those corrections," Tachias said. "It's all about the leadership. It's all about what we're teaching the kids …. I live everyday with that burden … that pain of my men not coming home to their families."

Lt. Col. Stephen Keppler, Valencia High School Junior ROTC instructor, said he was just glad the sports teams want the American flag out, because that's not the case everywhere."


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.