DEAR ABBY: I am an armed forces veteran who spent a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. My wife and I separated three years ago, and she and our four children now reside in another state. Neither of us has "moved on," and we may reconcile later in life.
I am writing about my oldest son, "Jon," who is 18 and not yet out of high school due to poor grades. He and I do not have a good relationship and have very different views regarding life and politics. Jon was, and still is, bitter over his mother and me separating.
When I returned from Iraq on mid-tour leave, I gave him the uniform jacket I wore in combat with all the rank, flags, name tags, etc., on it as a gift. I know from my own youth that I would have been proud to have had something from my uncles or father that they wore during the war. Jon started wearing it as soon as I gave it to him, and I was proud of him to do so.
I have not seen him much since my return to the United States from the war. However, I did see him a little over a month ago and noticed that he's still wearing the jacket. My wife says he wears it often. He has written an anarchy symbol in permanent marker on the American flag on the right sleeve under my combat patch. I am angry and disappointed, but I didn't make waves. I am not sure how to handle this, and I'm afraid that a returning soldier may take one look and vent his problems from combat tour of duty on my son. -- AMERICAN VET IN ALABAMA
DEAR AMERICAN VET: Your son may have defaced the jacket to punish you for the separation, or as a political statement. We live in a country that guarantees freedom of speech. Ask him if he realizes the effect that the anarchy symbol he penned on the American flag may have on other vets (including you). If the answer is yes, then he may have to learn the hard way what can happen when someone does something that's deliberately inflammatory.