Thomas Paine, the political activist and author who became one of the most influential figures in the American independence movement, stated: "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

Whether our flag is flying in a military outpost in Afghanistan, at the Capitol in Washington, on a flagpole at a school or in a town square, it's good to know that Americans are stepping up to make sure it receives the proper respect it deserves.

Rick Heilman of Fayetteville, Ark., a decorated Navy veteran, recently got into trouble with his boss at an equipment company by telling him that the tattered flag in front of their building needed replacing. Heilman said he was told to leave after the boss felt his authority was disrespected.

The boss said in an interview he simply asked Heilman to leave temporarily in order to defuse the tension. As for the flag, he admitted the company should have moved more swiftly to replace it.

In explaining why he challenged his boss, Heilman said that as a society, we've come to a point where we may know something is wrong, but feel it's easier to just walk away than confront the problem.

The second person who deserves credit for stepping up to honor the flag is Rep. Mike Thompson of California whose legislation requiring flags purchased by the Department of Defense to be 100 percent "Made in America" became law last week. Thompson didn't feel it was right that our military service men and women should be fighting under flags made in foreign countries. He said it's important that the flags are made by U.S. workers and with American products.

While the military flag rule passed, the government needs to take another step and require that all government-purchased flags be made in the U.S. The bottom line is cost. Chinese-made flags can be produced for much less than all-American ones.

That's an excuse that early patriots like Thomas Paine would have trouble accepting. We should too.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com