The American Legion in Marion, Iowa honored Matt Uhrin of Cedar Rapids Monday evening for his actions in stopping the burning of American flags on January 26, 2017. He was given membership at the post and received a certificate of appreciation for his actions.
Protesters set flags ablaze on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City last month. Uhrin, who was working at the time and in uniform, took one of the flags and used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. The incident was caught on video by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, which went viral.
Uhrin, an Army veteran who served in the war in Afghanistan in 2010-2011, said he saw the demonstrators while making deliveries. Once he realized what was happening, he said he “just couldn’t let it happen.”
Uhrin went on to recall how it triggered a memory of sending a fellow soldier home in a flag draped coffin. To Uhrin, it wasn’t just any flag. It was the flag that a soldier had died for and it was that flag that was proudly displayed on the soldier’s coffin. Uhrin said he didn’t want the soldier’s memory to be disgraced.
“It may be legal. It doesn’t make it right,” said Uhrin. “A lot of things may be said to be legal but that doesn’t mean they’re morally or ethically right to be doing, because to a lot of people, that flag was given to them instead of a loved one coming home. To them, you’re not just burning a flag, you’re burning the memory of that person or you’re burning the honor they were given coming home. It’d be the equivalent to slapping them in the face.”
After the incident, FedEx released a statement saying the Uhrin would be keeping his job. In the meantime, the mall demonstrators were issued citations for open burning without a permit.