Flag rescuer honored at Iowa Legion conference

The American Legion has saluted Iowa’s “Fed-Ex guy” for saving the U.S. flag as it was being burned by protesters in Iowa City on Jan. 26.

Matthew Uhrin, a U.S. Army combat veteran, was formally recognized by The American Legion’s Department of Iowa, received a personal letter of commendation from American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt and a membership in Marion, Iowa, Legion Post 298.

“I should have done this a long time ago,” Uhrin said after becoming an American Legion member at the Department of Iowa’s Mid-Winter Conference earlier this month. “But I never took the time to know what being a member of The American Legion really means.”

A video of Uhrin, who jumped from his Fed Ex truck and used a fire extinguisher to stop the act of desecration, went viral on social media, raising awareness of the continued use of U.S. flag burning as a form of protest.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 1989 that flag burning is a legal act of free speech protected under the First Amendment. The American Legion, the Citizens Flag Alliance and the majority of the U.S. public disagree and continue to work with Congress to pass a constitutional amendment restoring its ability to prohibit physical desecration of the U.S. flag. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., recently introduced House Joint Resolution 61 to achieve that.

“Finding out that The American Legion has been fighting and lobbying on this issue for years ... is the kind of organization I want to be part of,” Uhrin said. “And I have a lot of friends who are going to view The American Legion a lot differently from now on.”

The Mid-Winter Conference was more than a moment of recognition for the new Legionnaire. He was invited onstage to perform with American country artist Joe Denim at the event. “This Legion (family) has shown me a lot today,” Uhrin said. “From the grassroots work that they do to the fun they have – they work hard and play hard – that’s my kind of crowd.”