DENAIR -- Cody Alicea is becoming a regular in Washington, D.C.
Cody leaves today for the second of three trips to the nation's capital he has planned this year. The Denair eighth-grader made national headlines in November when a staff member at his middle school asked him to remove an American flag from his bicycle.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is flying Cody and his mom to Washington, D.C. -- grandpa will join them on the way -- to present the boy with its VFW Commander-in-Chief's Medallion and U.S. flag during its national gathering.
"It's awesome," Daneen Kinser, Cody's mother, said Friday.
In November, a Denair Middle School supervisor told Cody to put his flag away, citing tensions brought about by other students who had tried to display Mexican flags on Cinco de Mayo. Denair Unified School District officials quickly reversed their stand on the issue and have put together a committee to come up with rules governing any such displays.
Community members held a rally in support of Cody; bloggers challenged readers to inundate the district with flags. As for the soft-spoken Cody, Kinser said he's been happy to return to life outside the limelight. She said Cody still gets letters, patches and trinkets from veterans and others encouraging him to keep up his flag-flying ways. Which he does -- the flag remains on the bicycle he rides to school each day.
"He's still writing thank-you notes," Kinser said.
Cody and his family will join more than 600 VFW members from across the country, as well as from Europe, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, who will arrive over the weekend to begin meeting with their congressional representatives on issues important to veterans, service members and their families.
Many of those key issues and concerns will be covered by the VFW national commander when he testifies Tuesday before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees about the slow implementation of the caregiver bill, a backlog of 1.5 million VA claims, and veterans' jobless rates, which exceed the national average.
In May, Cody will return to Washington for a long-planned school trip with his classmates.
The Merced Sun-Star contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2343.