A group of Towamencin residents concerned that controversial symbols or flags would fly over the township building recently began the process of limiting the facility’s flagpoles to official government flags.

But now they’re rebooting their effort to make room for one more flag, a cause they believe is bigger than partisan politics or cultural debate: The flag of prisoners of war and members of the military missing in action.

“We withdrew and started a new petition because of the feedback we were receiving from the community,” said resident Shannon Main. “The POW/MIA (prisoner of war/missing in action) flag is a federally recognized flag under the U.S. and Pennsylvania flag code and some military veterans asked us to include it. We could not amend our current petition that we were already circulating, so we had to withdraw it and submit a new one.”

Other communities regularly fly flags representing issues that can inspire debate and division, such as the LGBTQ flag, the Palestinian flag, or, depending on one’s politics, the flag of Israel.

The residents are concerned supervisors will approve the LGBTQ flag or other flags they consider inappropriate to fly on township flagpoles.

Resident Nancy Becker said, “I am supporting the ordinance because I believe that the only flags flown over the township building should be the American flag, state, county, township, and POW/MIA flags. I want to ensure that there is an appropriate and respectful display of flags. The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Space Force flags may be flown over township-owned properties, including parks, open space, and especially Veteran Memorial Park.

“Our ordinance adheres to the Pennsylvania Flag Code and the U.S. Flag Code. We do this because we want to uphold the values of respect and honor, especially toward the American Flag and our government flags.

“We do not want to discriminate against anyone or organization.  The ordinance clearly states our flag policy, therefore I believe it will enable any one or organization to understand our flag policy and not have them feel that we are discriminating against them,” said Becker.

“The ordinance clearly states our flag policy, so I believe it will enable anyone or organization to understand our flag policy.”

Barry L. Kenyon, a retired Navy lieutenant, said he is “passionate about the POW/MIA flag and my fellow service members in general. He gave a history of the POW/MIA flag.

“In 1971, Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of a U.S. Military Officer listed as Missing In Action (a.k.a. MIA) during the Vietnam War, developed the idea of a national flag to remind every American of the U.S. Service members whose fates were never accounted for during this war. It took until 1990 for the 101st Congress to officially recognize the POW/MIA Flag, designating it the symbol of our nation’s concern and commitment to resolving, as fully as possible, the fates of Americans still held prisoner and those missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.

“It took until 29 October 2020 for the State of Pennsylvania to amend Act 81 to allow the POW/MIA Flag to be flown, ‘When the United States flag is displayed on any ground or building owned or under control of the Commonwealth, the official POW/MIA flag shall also be displayed where it can be reasonably accommodated.’”

“On 29 March 1973, the last U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam with the fall of Saigon occurred on 30 April 1975.  It was far too long that the politicians took to recognize the sacrifices of the U.S. Service members in Southeast Asia,” said Kenyon.

“I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in June 1971 and spent 26 years of service.  Of all of the service personnel I have known who served in Vietnam, I do not recall anyone requesting to spend their time in the service in Vietnam.  But they did what was asked of them and did their duty to our country.  That is what patriots do!  Flying the POW/MIA is a small show of respect for their fallen and missing comrades,” he said.

The residents have until May 8 to gather signatures.

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