FlagZone LLC was one among the multitudes of businesses deemed “nonessential” by Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf when the state was locked down in March in response to the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.
Thanks to Wolf’s order, one of the company’s key products — flags to be planted in front of veterans’ gravestones on Memorial Day as we remember our fallen and those who have served — was sitting in their warehouse, unable to be shipped.
Now, thanks to a waiver from Gov. Wolf, those flags are going out after all.
The story was originally covered in the Reading Eagle on May 6.
The company had asked Gov. Wolf for a waiver to ship their wares. Waiver denied.
“We want to be able to honor veterans as we do every year and as we’ve done across Pennsylvania and the nation,” company president Daniel Ziegler said.
However, at least in Berks County, where FlagZone is located, the Berks County Department of Veterans Affairs had originally said there’d be no flag-laying on Memorial Day this year. The reason?
Because of FlagZone’s closure, they didn’t have the necessary flags to carry out the tradition and were left looking for another supplier at the last minute.
“At this time we only have 2,000 flags on stock but we need 50,000,” Berks County Veterans Affairs Director Ken Lebron said. “So 48,000 flags is our request.
“The specifications of the nylon/cotton flag we need are 12” x 17” with a 30” stake (preferably wooden).”
And all FlagZone said it needed was a waiver. There wasn’t even any production involved.
“We’re trying everything we can to honor the veterans,” Ziegler said. “Perhaps it will happen in June so we can celebrate them July 4. They (the flags) are in our warehouse and we can’t get them free.”
The state government, alas, seemed like it wasn’t going to budge.
“As the administration’s main priority is protecting the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians, flagmaking operations are thus deemed non-life-sustaining,” said Casey Smith, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development.
“While FlagZone will unfortunately need to suspend its operations this year, we are hopeful that in the years to come, it will be able to continue to provide Pennsylvanians with a symbol of our patriotism for future Memorial Day celebrations.”
The story received national attention, and it was clear the decision wasn’t going to fly for a lot of people.
In a social media post, the Rev. Franklin Graham said FlagZone “had requested special permission to get these shipped out, but it was turned down because their business was deemed ‘non-life-sustaining.’
“It is interesting that liquor stores are considered essential and have been allowed to be open and doing business, isn’t it? These are hard decisions to make, I know, but businesses that can take necessary precautions need to be allowed to open back up.
“I think honoring our fallen heroes is important. These are men and women who paid the ultimate price so that we could experience the freedoms we enjoy today. This is another reminder that who we vote for to lead our cities, our states, and our nation is immensely important. We need leaders who believe in and defend our Constitutional liberties,” he wrote.
On Monday, Berks County announced that Gov. Wolf relented and gave FlagZone a waiver Friday allowing them to fill Memorial Day orders.
“The waiver (allowing Gilbertsville, PA manufacturer FLAGZONE to open) is a result of the overwhelming groundswell of voices from concerned, patriotic citizens of this county who were extremely upset regarding the impending absence of American Flags to decorate the graves of veterans for Memorial Day 2020,” Lebron said in a statement.
“The Berks County Commissioners heard those concerns and responded expeditiously by relaying those concerns directly to the leadership in Harrisburg. These unified efforts from the community, our local legislators and County Commissioners have proved to be fruitful as the waiver was extended to FLAGZONE by the Wolf administration late last week.”
“We’re just excited to get these flags out after months of being shut down,” Ziegler said, according to the Reading Eagle. “Memorial Day has such a rich history. Hopefully, when a family goes to the gravesite of a loved one who was a veteran they will now see that they were not forgotten. It should give them some peace to know that.”
They’re not just getting shipped out, however. They’re going out in style:
The Blue Knights Motorcycle Group helped escort 50,000 flags to the Berks County Department of Veterans Affairs — a moving experience for Blue Knights member Luis Gonzalez.
“I was able to touch every box that was going to go on 28-to-30,000 graves of our deceased soldiers.
It’s great to say that all’s well that ends well in situations like this. However, that lets too many people off too easily.
This was an issue that’s been percolating in the media for nearly two weeks now. In short, this wasn’t an issue of someone catching the story when it was first reported and realizing what a dreadful oversight it had been.
This was a case where enough media inertia finally produced the result FlagZone was looking for — mostly because it would have embarrassed Gov. Wolf otherwise.
That’s not a good outcome; that’s getting an outcome which should have been the case from the start, only weeks later and with considerable effort.
As for getting FlagZone back to manufacturing, that, unfortunately, still isn’t a reality.
Ziegler says things are “moving in the right direction.” One can only hope they move there less glacially than they did in this situation.
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