Neighbors frown over military family's tattered American flag

Faded nearly white and torn to shreds, the American flag flying in front of the home of Louis and Jessie Haros has drawn strange looks, and anger, from passers-by in recent weeks.

People have knocked on their door and done everything short of demand that the couple replace the tattered banner. One man even left a brand-new flag on the porch.

Louis Haros knows that sun, wind and rain have taken their toll on the once-new flag. But the last thing he means is to show disrespect. He said that his love for his son, Paul Haros, and for his country, have kept it flying long after the first rips appeared.

This week Paul Haros, a corporal in the California National Guard, is scheduled to return from Iraq. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Desert Storm, and has served three tours in Iraq as a member of the Army National Guard.

Paul Haros, 39, hung the flag in front of his parents' home on Belmont Avenue 11 months ago.

"Before he left, he brought the flag over and put it up," Louis Haros said. "I told him I wouldn't take it down until he came back. I didn't realize it would get so bad so quickly, but I'm still leaving it up until he comes home."

The American flag, Louis Haros said, has special meaning to him. He served for two tours in Vietnam with the Army, then joined the Special Forces and retired after 22 years.

"When people have asked about it, I tell them I understand the importance of the flag, and then I explain why it's still flying," Haros said.

The explanation hasn't satisfied everyone, and even those who understand the story behind the flag say they look forward to it being replaced.

"That flag needs to come down and be properly disposed of," said John Southward, a former Navy signalman who lives down the street. "I used to use and maintain flags in the Navy, and I know better than most when it's time to retire a flag. In this case, it's past time."