Fort Drum soldier flies flags upside down in protest of Obama
By Gordon Block and Steve Virkler | Watertown Daily Times | Published: December 4, 2012
COPENHAGEN — Fort Drum officials say they are reviewing the actions of a 10th Mountain Division soldier who is flying a pair of American flags upside down in front of her home, in what the soldier described to a neighbor as a protest against President Barack Obama.
Such an action could be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The upside-down flags are flying in front of the home of Melissa L. Coss on Main Street. She is a longtime service member from Ohio who bought the house in 2006.
An article in the June 16, 2011, edition of the Fort Drum Mountaineer lists her as a sergeant first class in the division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion.
Several phone calls to a phone number listed to Sgt. Coss were not answered Monday.
On Monday afternoon, the two U.S. flags were flying upside down outside the house, along with a flag for the state of Ohio. Section 176 of Chapter 10, Title 36 in the U.S. Code of Laws, referred to as the U.S. Flag Code, says the flag should be flown upside down only in “instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
“Any time you fly a flag upside down, it’s dire distress,” said William F. Snyder, vice commander of the Lewis County Marine Corps League and the Lowville Veterans of Foreign Wars, Lewis County Memorial Post 6912.
A neighbor, John H. Drewes, said his wife visited Sgt. Coss about a week ago after seeing the upside-down flags to make sure everything was all right.
Mrs. Drewes was told the reason for the display, done shortly after the Nov. 6 general election, was to protest President Barack Obama’s re-election.
Such actions may fall under Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which stipulates that an officer who uses contemptuous words against prominent federal and state officials, including the president, vice president and Congress, could face court-martial. However it is unclear whether such rules would apply to an enlisted soldier such as Sgt. Coss.
Her actions also could fall under Article 134, which punishes conduct that would affect good order and discipline or bring discredit upon the armed forces, which applies to enlisted soldiers.
Mr. Drewes and Mr. Snyder, both former Marines, suggested that the soldier’s actions, by undermining the commander in chief, could be seen as a violation of uniform code.
“The bottom line is there are other ways to express yourself,” said Mr. Snyder, who lives nearby in the Barnes Corners area.
Mr. Drewes said he felt any such protest would have been more effective before the election.
“Right now, a million flags upside down won’t make a difference,” he said.
Mr. Snyder said he participated in the Copenhagen Christmas Parade on Sunday but did not see the upside-down flags because they were just off the parade route and he didn’t hear about them until Monday.
Officials from Fort Drum’s public affairs office on Monday afternoon said they were continuing to look into the issue.