A retired Air Force sergeant who in April was dragged from a military retirement ceremony as he recited a traditional passage honoring the flag is demanding an apology and threatening a lawsuit.
Senior Master Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez was invited to speak at the April 3 ceremony by an outgoing fellow master sergeant from the 749th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. In a story first reported by FoxNews.com days later, video showed Rodriguez being forcibly removed by service members at Travis Air Force Base.
"This was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life,” Rodriguez told FoxNews.com. “All I wanted to do was honor Master Sgt. [Charles] Roberson, his guests, and the flag, with my speech."
Rodriguez believes his recitation of an old version of "Flag Folding Ceremony Air Force Script," which was later scrubbed because of religious references, prompted his ouster. The version read by Rodriguez contained religious references.
“Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempts to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery," it read in part. "It is this one nation under God that we call, with honor, the United States of America,” reads the flag-folding speech which closes with the words, “God bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.”
Even though the Air Force revised the script in 2006, Rodriguez believes it was his right - and the right of Roberson - to invoke the older version.
"To have the Air Force throw me off the base, simply because my speech included the word ‘God,' was devastating,” he said.
The 50-second video clip showing Rodriguez being hauled away was first posted by JQPublicBlog.com, which called the footage “a disgraceful spectacle” during what is usually a calm send off. A source who was present at the event told the military blog that Rodriguez was there at the request of the retiree, but had been banned from the base by the squadron commander.
A spokesman from the reserve said that the confrontation stemmed from “an unplanned participation” at the event.
"Rodriguez ignored numerous requests to respect the Air Force prescribed ceremony and unfortunately was forcibly removed," a Travis official said in a statement to FoxNews.com.
According to an official with the United States Air Force, flag folding scripts that are religious in nature can be used for retirement ceremonies.
"I can't speak to the specific incident," Ann Stefanek, a Air Force Spokeswoman tells Fox News. "[But] Air Force personnel may use a flag folding ceremony script that is religious for retirement ceremonies."
"Since retirement ceremonies are personal in nature, the script preference for a flag folding ceremony is at the discretion of the individual being honored and represents the member's views, not those of the Air Force."
Stephan Sila, who identified himself as the officiating officer at the ceremony and a 28-year Air Force veteran, wrote in a Facebook post published on the military blog at the time that Rodriguez simply planned to read a statement honoring the flag and that his appearance had been cleared through the proper chain of command.
Legal watchdog First Liberty Institute is representing Rodriguez in his quest for a formal apology for what it claims was a violation of his First Amendment rights.
“We took this case because the government has no right to throw a citizen, much less a 33-year military veteran, off a military base because they don’t want him to mention ‘God,'" Mike Berry, director of military affairs for First Liberty, told Foxnews.com in a statement. “The military broke the law and abused its power.”
FoxNews.com’s Edmund DeMarche and Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this story.