(WYOMING, Mich.) — A Michigan man whose son died in Iraq burned the state flag of New Jersey after the Garden State flew its flags at half-staff in memory of Whitney Houston last week.
“They’re watering down the term of what a true hero is these days,” John Burri told ABC News. “I thought it was offensive to every family’s fallen soldier out there, and it cheapens the meaning of lowering the flag.”
The 60-year-old’s decision to torch the New Jersey flag on his Wyoming, Mich., patio grill came after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered flags flown at half-staff to honor the singer Whitney Houston, a Garden State native who was buried in her home state on Sunday.
Burri believes flags should only be lowered for those who died serving their country.
“My intention was not to hurt anyone, especially the residents of New Jersey,” he said. “My intention was to show Gov. Christie how offensive it was.”
The governor has defended his decision, calling Houston a “cultural icon.”
“Her accomplishments in her life were a source of great pride for many people in this state and for the state as a whole, and so on that basis I think she’s entitled to have that recognition,” Christie told reporters last week.
After seeing Christie’s comments on the local news, Burri said he set out on a mission to honor his son, Army Spc. Eric Burri, who died in 2005 when an explosive device detonated near the Humvee in which he was patrolling.
He bought a replica New Jersey flag, tied it to the back of his car and drove around two veteran memorials in Grand Rapids, Mich. He then stopped at his son’s burial site before going home and burning the flag.
“Best $12.95 I’ve ever spent,” said Burri. “Sometimes, you have to do something drastic and extreme for people to listen. I just hope it made a point that maybe someone will pick this up and get a new law made for flag etiquette.”
Federal law gives governors of American states power to have flags lowered for residents or state officials. There is no law requiring that person to have served in the armed forces.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Matt Egan, CNN
Sara Zendehnam, CNN