DEAR ABBY: I am an armed forces veteran who spent a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. My wife and I separated three years ago, and she and our four children now live in another state. Neither of us has “moved on,” and we may reconcile later in life.

I am writing about my oldest son, “Jon,” who is 18 and not yet out of high school due to poor grades. He and I do not have a good relationship and have very different views regarding life and politics. Jon was, and still is, bitter over his mother and me separating.

When I returned from Iraq on mid-tour leave, I gave him the uniform jacket I wore in combat with all the rank, flags, name tags, etc., on it as a gift. I know from my own youth that I would have been proud to have had something from my uncles or father that they wore during the war. Jon started wearing it as soon as I gave it to him, and I was proud of him for doing so.

I have not seen him much since my return to the United States from the war. However, I did see him a little over a month ago and noticed that he’s still wearing the jacket. My wife says he wears it often. He has written an anarchy symbol in permanent marker on the American flag on the right sleeve under my combat patch. I am angry and disappointed, but I didn’t make waves. I am not sure how to handle this, and I’m afraid that a returning soldier may take one look and vent his problems from combat tour of duty on my son. – AMERICAN VET IN ALABAMA

DEAR AMERICAN VET: Your son may have defaced the jacket to punish you for the separation, or as a political statement. We live in a country that guarantees freedom of speech. Ask him if he realizes the effect that the anarchy symbol he penned on the American flag may have on other vets (including you). If the answer is yes, then he may have to learn the hard way what can happen when someone does something that’s deliberately inflammatory.

DEAR ABBY: My husband left me a year ago, and our divorce became final two months ago. We have a 3-year-old daughter who lives primarily with me, but sees him frequently.

I am a preschool teacher, and my daughter attends classes at the same school where I teach. I have just learned that my ex was dating – and is still communicating with – one of my co-teachers, “Danielle.” Ironically, she and I were working in the same classroom when he left me, and I cried on her shoulder about the situation. We bonded because her husband had left her, too.

It gets worse. It seems at least one other teacher has known about the situation for several months. Danielle was apparently reading e-mails from my ex in the staff room and shared a message with the other teacher, whispering, “Shhh …” as she pointed to his name on the screen.

I feel furious, betrayed and humiliated. I think my ex is pond scum, and Danielle is simply evil. I don’t want my daughter connected to this woman in any way. I have to see Danielle every day, and I don’t know what to say or do. So far, I have been avoiding her. Any advice? – EX-WIFE IN WASHINGTON

DEAR EX-WIFE: I don’t blame you for feeling betrayed, but you can’t control who your ex sees or who might be with him when your daughter visits her dad. My advice is to keep your cool and continue to avoid Danielle. There is nothing to be gained – and you could have a lot to lose – if you create a scene at the school. Should you run into her away from the school and choose to give her a piece of your mind, that’s your privilege. But don’t count on shaming the shameless – because that’s what she is.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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