Son of Vietnam vet upset with flags disposal at cemetery - WNEM TV 5

Son of Vietnam vet upset with flags disposal at cemetery

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

A man claims a local cemetery is leaving old American flags on the ground instead of retiring them properly.

He's speaking out to prevent people from desecrating the stars and stripes.

"My dad fought for that flag like hundreds of veterans in that cemetery and I just felt disrespected," Bryon Stark said.

An already emotional Father's Day was not made any easier for Stark. His dad, a Vietnam veteran, died Memorial Day weekend. When Stark visited his father's grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Sunday he was angry at what he saw.

"Dozens of flags thrown away just like trash," Stark said.

He said he found the flags in a makeshift trash heap near the back of the cemetery.

"We fought for that flag. That's why we are veterans, we fought for that flag," said Bill Theaker, commander of the VFW Post 1859 in Carrollton.

He said all flags, no matter what their size, need to be retired properly. That involves burning them with dignity.

"Don't throw them in the trash," Theaker said.

Saginaw's public services director Phil Karwat said the flags were there on accident.

He said the city's standard practice is to dispose of them properly and he works with local veteran organizations to do so.

Karwat said because of budget issues he only has three full-time employees and his crews depend on volunteers to keep the cemeteries clean. The volunteers are sorely needed, but they may not know all of the city's policies.

"I don't think it's a training issue because my full-time employees are well-aware and they're trained, but any given week I could have five to 10 different people," Karwat said.

Stark said he understands the challenges, but he hopes the proper disposal of the flag is a hard lesson learned.

"I really don't believe it was done out of malice. I really just believe it was maybe ignorance for lack of a better word," Stark said.

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