Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sister Newspapers' News

July 3, 2012

Cemetery lands in hot water over flag rules

RALEIGH, N.C. — MINERAL WELLS, Texas – A Texas cemetery board said it was all a big mistake – American flags are indeed welcomed at the burial site.

But try telling that to people who think their late family members were being disrespected.

When news of new cemetery guidelines started to circulate, the rumors became fodder for social media sites and soon the government officials were being flooded with angry calls.

Among the new regulations outlined in the updated cemetery park ordinance was one limiting the placement of flags at grave stones other than for the period one week before and one week after Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

That was taken by many to mean American flags wouldn’t be allowed to be displayed at gravesites at other times.

But cemetery board member Jo Murphy said that was not the intent of the new ordinance. She said the idea was to allow flags and floral displays every day as long as they are contained in a vase or holder that is permanently attached to or part of the grave marker.

Murphy said the ordinance was meant to address any displays placed outside and next to the marker.

While council member Rick Bennett said his intention was to reduce unsightly clutter from the cemetery, he added he "never dreamed we were talking about the American flag."

Veteran Robert Veach, whose father is buried at Woodland Park, took exception to the new rules, but now is taking a more conciliatory tone. The cemetery is "not out to snatch somebody's flag or teddy bear," he said. "They simply want a nice looking cemetery."

Cemetery officials had worked on the new rules for more than a year and even had public hearings. The council city later passed the revised rules when no objections were offered. But when the story started to spread on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter that’s when tempers got hot. A city councilman said threats had been made against him and family members.

Cemetery officials and government leaders hope an additional public meeting will lead to a resolution and clarification of the issue.

They felt “we can resolve this issue in a manner that will allow us all to honor our veterans in a fitting manner,” one said.

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Details for this story were provided by the Mineral Wells (Texas) Index.

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