ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – There is flag controversy at Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg.
Some families are heartbroken the gravestones of their loved ones weren’t adorned with American flags but others were.
8 On Your Side was told the group who usually lays the flags down, the Boy Scouts, weren’t able due to coronavirus.
Pam Hinds, the widow of a veteran buried there, heard the same thing and knew something had to be done. So less than a week before Memorial Day she rallied a group of 30 volunteers to do lay the flags down.
“Well some people don’t have flags, I don’t know why I just don’t know,” said Veteran Ray Teasdale, Clearwater who is disappointed his dad’s gravestone doesn’t have a flag.
Hinds said she feels terrible but as a volunteer effort they only had enough money to buy 15,000 flags so some 15,000 other gravestones had to lay bare.
Hinds said she reached out to the Veterans Affairs group who runs the cemetery but was surprised when they refused to give her the flags used in years past.
“I was told this morning they weren’t shipped down from national because of the virus, then I heard they had been stored in the cemetery. I don’t really know but they would not give us the flags, no,” Hinds said.
8 On Your Side asked the National Cemetery Association where the flags were from years past. We were told the flags were kept on-site. They never answered why the group couldn’t use them.
The National Cemetery Association directed us to the VA Website when we asked what coronavirus restrictions kept groups from putting flags up for all veterans. There is a statement on the website that links the reason to coronavirus concerns.
Still, Hinds says groups like hers could put flags up with adhering to CDC guidelines and staying in groups of 10 or less and all 6-feet-apart. We were never given a clear answer on why that was not allowed.
We told Hinds their response to her questions. She said she’s “beyond frustrated” that the flags were there on-site and some of the gravestones didn’t have to go without. We assured her 8 On Your Side would continue pushing for answers why volunteers couldn’t use those flags.
Hinds said the Veterans Affairs group also is refusing to help them pick up flags and said now their volunteer group needs help picking up the 15,000 flags they laid out. She said the urgency is to keep something bad from happening, like the flag getting mowed over.
She said they will begin picking up the small 4×6 flags every night until they’re gone. The group will begin picking up flags Wednesday night from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. To contact Pam Hinds Pagac to help volunteer picking up flags call (727) 455-5636.
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