DETROIT (AP) - John Burri lost a son in Iraq and believes lowering flags to half-staff should be done to commemorate those who gave their lives in service to the United States, not celebrities like Whitney Houston.
On Saturday, the 60-year-old spent $12.95 on a 3-by-5-foot replica of New Jersey's state flag and burned it on his outdoor grill in protest of Gov. Chris Christie's decision to mark Houston's death by lowering flags in her native state.
"This was a person who was a great entertainer and a great voice," said Burri, who lives in the city of Wyoming in western Michigan. "But this was not someone who gave their life and shed their blood for our country."
Army Specialist Eric Burri was a gunner on a Humvee when he was killed in 2005 after an explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. Then-Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm ordered flags lowered in his memory.
Houston died Feb. 11 in Beverly Hills, Calif. A cause of death has not been released. Her funeral was held Saturday. Flags were flown at half-staff at New Jersey state government buildings that day at Christie's orders.
The New Jersey governor defended his decision to remember Houston in that manner, noting the 48-year-old icon was born in Newark and raised in nearby East Orange. Her music career spanned nearly three decades until deteriorating as she struggled with drug addiction.
"I am disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise - and we don't know what is the cause of her death yet - but because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she's forfeited the good things that she did in her life," Christie said last week. "I just reject that on a human level."
Christie should have found another way to honor Houston, Burri said.
"It was a slap in the face for every family out there who has lost a loved one in the war," he said. "It's a watering down of what it means to be a hero."
After buying the New Jersey flag Saturday, Burri said he tied it to the back of his car and dragged it around two Grand Rapids-area veteran's memorials and the cemetery where his son is buried.
"It wasn't a thing to do to degrade the people of New Jersey," he told The Associated Press Monday. "This is just how much it hurt, and sometimes you have to do something a little tragic to get your point across."