DETROIT To Ray Saelens, the sound of his 12-by 18-foot American flag flapping in the wind was the collective voice of soldiers fighting for freedom.
To his neighbor, it was just a nuisance.
Now Saelens is fighting a ticket he received because his neighbor said the flag made too much noise.
It was 11:45 p.m. Monday when Chesterfield Township Police knocked on Saelens' door to hand him a ticket. His neighbor, Mark Grucz, had complained the noise from Saelens' flag was keeping him awake as it flapped in winds exceeding 40 mph.
The police said that under a township code, they had no choice but to ticket him. It's up to the township's lawyers to decide whether to pursue it.
Saelens is frustrated enough to make plenty of comments.
"I think as an American, we have every right to fly the flag," he said. "The noise of that flag is the voices of all the people who died fighting for the flag."
Saelens plans to fight the ticket, which carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.
He'll have plenty of help. Since word of the ticket spread, he has received dozens of calls from people outraged that an American flag could lead to a citation.
"I'd rather see a noisy flag flapping in the wind than a burning flag," said Shirley Perry of St. Clair Shores, Mich., a member of VFW Post 6782.
Saelens said he was a Vietnam War protester in the 1960s. Maturity and raising a family made him see the flag in a different light, he said. Now he buys a new flag every three months.