Tuesday 6 June 2023

Town Swaps POW/MIA Banner For Pride Flag, Causing Anger

 Residents of a Buffalo, N.Y., suburb were outraged after they noticed a Pride flag had seemingly replaced the POW/MIA banner that has long flown high above the town hall.

Hamburg, New York’s Coalition for Equity and Inclusion raised the Pride flag at the building on Friday to mark the beginning of Pride month. That flag replaced a POW/MIA flag, prompting one member of the town board to note her disapproval on Facebook, WGRZ reported.

“I am alarmed and saddened to learn that the POW/MIA flag that flew with our American flag at Town Hall was removed yesterday to fly another flag,” Beth Farrell wrote. “There were other ways that the Pride flag could have been displayed without showing disrespect to our Veterans, POW, and MIA. Creating unnecessary controversy involving our veterans and the Pride flag could and should have been avoided.”

After Farrell and other residents of the town, some 20 minutes south of Buffalo, voiced their displeasure, Hamburg Town Supervisor Randy Hoak said it was all a misunderstanding.

“Prior to the ceremony, it became apparent that the POW/MIA flag was frayed and tattered and in need of replacement,” Hoak said Sunday. “The damaged flag was removed and immediately delivered to the Town Clerk for proper disposal and swift replacement. The Town had no intention of removing the POW/MIA flag, even temporarily.”

“Like many Hamburg residents, I come from a family with a rich military tradition and respect for military service,” Hoak added. “I understand the importance of the POW/MIA flag as a reminder of the sacrifice of those who never stepped off the battlefield and the anguish of their families back home. We must never forget.”

Cathy Rybczynski, Hamburg’s town clerk, added that the grounds crew had noticed the POW/MIA flag was damaged “and asked me to make arrangements for its disposal,” so she ordered a new flag that should arrive soon.

Hoak said he received roughly a dozen calls at his office about the Pride flag. One veteran stated, “I have no problem with the Pride flag. But I do not think it belongs anywhere on the same pole as the American flag with the POW. Sorry. It’s wrong.” Hoak was also allegedly slapped by an outraged veteran who was later charged with harassment.

“Happy Pride, Hamburg!” Hamburg, New York’s Coalition for Equity and Inclusion wrote on Facebook with a photo of the American flag and Pride Flags flown together. “Join Hamburg Coalition for Equity and Inclusion – HCEI as we raise the flag in recognition and celebration of all LGBTQ+ citizens.”

By Monday, a new POW/MIA flag was flying outside Hamburg Town Hall along with the American flag and the Pride flag.

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