Months after the Navy angered a local family by not flying the D.C. flag at a boot camp graduation, District officials on Monday pressed Congress to force the Pentagon to fly the city's standard alongside those of the 50 states at military ceremonies.
"To have someone go into the service, go through the rigors of the training associated with that and then not even be able to have your own state flag or city flag raised ... that's just dehumanizing," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said. "District of Columbia residents are enlisting in the same service as everybody else, and you ought to get the same rights and privileges."
The flap began after Ward 4 resident Jonathan Rucker enlisted in the Navy and graduated from the service's Illinois boot camp. But as the sailors were recognized in January, Rucker's mother, Tomi, noticed something during the ceremony.
"There was no flag for the District of Columbia. There was no recognition for my son's service," said Tomi Rucker, who said her son is now serving in Japan aboard the USS Blue Ridge. "I wasn't mad, but I was truly disappointed, and I was hurt."
District and federal officials did not know how many times the District's flag had been excluded from military events, but the armed services conduct dozens of boot camp graduations annually. Only the Army regularly flies the D.C. flag at its events.
The slighting at Rucker's graduation sparked a renewed push to require the military to fly the city's flag, along with those of territories like Guam and Puerto Rico, when all 50 states' flags are flown.
Although a standalone mandate stalled in a House subcommittee, the full chamber ultimately approved the proposal as a part of its version of the defense authorization bill.
But the Senate didn't include the provision in its draft, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton warned that it was there that similar proposals had fizzled in the past.
"We call on the Senate to recognize all who serve in the armed forces of the United States," said Norton, who also urged President Obama to "wipe clean this disrespect from the practices of any and all federal agencies."
A Pentagon spokesman declined to discuss pending legislation.