Vietnam veteran flies flag daily to salute American servicemen

Zak Casarez, left, and his grandfather, Dale Fite of Clovis, fold up the flag at the end of the day Wednesday. Fite said he is teaching his grandson the importance of paying respect to the flag with the daily ceremony. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

When storms rise over Clovis skies, Dale Fite grows worried. Not in fear of inclement weather, but because it means he might have to take down the American flag that billows, nearly 24-7, outside his Clovis home.

While American flags were visible throughout Clovis on Wednesday in honor of Flag Day, displaying the Stars and Stripes is something Fite does daily — a salute, he said, to servicemen and servicewomen across the nation.

“I have a great amount of pride for our country where we can do, say and feel as we do and not be subject to criticism or death as it is in most countries,” said Fite, a Vietnam veteran.

In 1964, his father, a World War II veteran, stumbled upon a flag pole at a garage sale. He gave it to his son. Ever since, Fite has hung the American flag from it, changing homes and flags, but never replacing the towering metal pole.

In his living room, a photo of his son, a Marine, hangs against an otherwise empty plum wall, his white cap aglow against the dark blue of his uniform. He recently returned from Iraq and continues to serve his country, although he is once again on home soil.

The tradition of military service is relatively new for the family.

“Whatever line there is, it just started,” said Fite, his 11-year-old grandson sitting across from him in a dining room chair.

“Marines,” his grandson, Zak Casarez, sputtered when asked what branch of the military he might join. He has obviously pondered the question before.

The boy is already versed in flag folding. He and his grandfather solemnly demonstrate the craft in the front yard, as the wind whips around them. A serious look gathers across their faces. For the pair, this is not a frivolous task, but a technical one.

“Technically, there should be no red (parts of the flag) showing once it is folded,” Fite says as he folds the cloth.

“(People) tend to pass things on,” said Fite’s wife, Anita. “There is a proper way,” she said, “to fold a flag. My son, who was in Iraq, taught me that. I feel honored that he shared that knowledge with me.”

Fite’s reverence for the nation’s symbol, he said, was impressed upon him by his father, and he impressed it upon his sons.

He is angered, he said, when he sees athletes drape the flag around their shoulders, or people sprawl it across their windows, or illegal immigrants wave it at rallies.

“For that, small flags on a stick would be better,” he said.

“After the World Trade Center was attacked, flags were displayed all over the place. It is a shame that died away. To me, the flag is something that should be displayed all the time,” Fite said.

“You never know when you might have to die for your country,” his wife added.