My father spent more than a quarter century on active duty in the United States Navy, beginning in the last year of World War II, and ending in 1973. Proud of his service, fiercely loyal to the Navy and the country, most of his closest friends served in the military. Recently he and my mother moved to a retirement home in Northern Virginia originally begun by retired Air Force officers. He occasionally wears his Navy wings (he was a pilot for most of his service), but I've never seen him wear a flag lapel pin. I saw him in uniform regularly for decades, and often in his dress whites, so I've seen his many ribbons and medals--never a flag pin.
So I asked him whether he saw a lot of flag lapel pins at his retirement home, where most of the residents are Republicans. (He's not, I'm delighted to say; both he and my mother, who just turned 80--he's 84--voted for Barack Obama in the Virginia primary.) He said he sees very few of these pins. "Why do you think that is?" I asked him a couple of weeks ago. Well, he answered, when you've served your country for an entire career, you don't feel the need to announce your patriotism publicly. "I don't know about the others," he continued, "but I sure don't."
How interesting that TV anchors who've never served in the military think it's critical for politicians to announce their patriotism on their lapels. How interesting that politicians who've never served in the military, and wouldn't think of doing so, and wouldn't want their children to do so, think it's so important to announce their patriotism with a piece of lapel jewelry. When Vice President Cheney puts on that pin, be sure to ask him about his service to his country, back when it might have cost him something. The Vice President had "other priorities" during the Vietnam era, when we worried every year that my father would receive orders to Vietnam. (We all got lucky--he didn't.)
Jewelry doesn't equate to patriotism--in fact, it's a shoddy substitute for the real thing. Ask my old man.