Navy veteran fired from job after taking down tattered American flag [UPDATED]

Will Lerner
Odd News

The United States Flag Code (pdf) states, in part, that when the flag is, “no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” (Hey that destroying thing is interesting, right?) Thepoint is that when the American flag has become tattered, it should be taken down and replaced with a newer one. Navy veteran Rick Heilman told WSMV Channel 4 that his adherence to this protocol is what got him fired from his job.

Mr. Heilman, who spent 22 years in the Navy and was a chief diver, was at work at the Yearwood Equipment Company in Fayetteville, North Carolina when he noticed that the American flag that flies in front of the business had been worn down. He says he told his store manager that the flag needed to be taken down. Heilman told WSMV, “I said, 'Hey, the flag is pretty torn up out front. Do we have another one to replace it?' And he pretty much bluntly told me no. I said, 'OK, can we take it down until we get a new one?' And he again repeated, 'No.'"

Stewing over it all weekend, Heilman went back to work the following week and took it down in the morning. Mr. Heilman says his manager was angry over his actions, telling Heilman that he had bought a new flag to put up, but was mostly angry at what he deemed was insubordination. Heilman says he was told, “You've disrespected my authority and therefore you're fired.”

Yearwood Equipment Company’s management would not speak on camera, but did reiterate that Heilman was not fired for replacing the flag. WSMV’s report seems to show an intact American flag flying in front of the business.

As for Heilman, he doesn’t think that the instructions he was given, to not take down the flag, were “viable.” He told the station, “Too often, we, as society, have come to a point where we see something is wrong, we know that it's wrong and it's easier to just shake our head and walk away than it is to confront the problem."

More info: WSMV

UPDATE February 20, 2014 3:30 PM PST:

Odd News today received the following statement from P.D. Shelton, general manager at Yearwood Equipment Company:

Yearwood Equipment Company supports our nation, our veterans and our nation's flag without reservation. We agree with Rick Heilman that the flag outside our dealership was tattered. There was disagreement between Rick and me as to when, how and who would replace the flag at the facility. Rick was not dismissed from his position at the dealership. Rather, in order to defuse a tense conversation, I asked Rick to leave the premises temporarily. In respect of the flag, we should have moved more swiftly to replace it and we are deeply sorry this situation has intensified in this way.