They were small American flags, the kind you hold in your hand and wave at a Fourth of July parade or stick in the ground next to a veteran’s grave.
And they ended up in the trash.
A city contractor mowing and cleaning the cemetery in Elsberry, Mo., north of St. Louis, collected the flags from gravesites and mistakenly threw them away.
When members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars found out, they were livid and demanded the city remove the flags from the trash bin, reports Fox 2 in St. Louis.
“No American flag should ever be tossed in the Dumpster no matter how small it is,” Roger Morris, commander of VFW Post 9064, told Fox 2. “I have friends that did not come back, and the flag is extremely important to me.”
Alliance Water Resources, which does maintenance work for the City of Elsberry, apologized for tossing the flags.
“Alliance is a strong supporter of the military and we understand the sacrifices that have been made by service members and their families,” regional operations manager for Alliance Water Resources James Sneed said in a statement.
“We also share the deep sentiment held by many for our American flag. On our behalf of the staff and the city of Elsberry, I apologize for this mistake and commit to making sure the staff is educated so this does not happen again.”
People who left comments on the Fox 2 Facebook page wondered how many of their fellow citizens know proper flag etiquette.
According to the U.S. Flag Code, when a flag “is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
Several organizations, including the American Legion, Boy Scouts and VFW, ceremoniously retire flags.
The VFW post took possession of the flags from the cemetery and locked them in a shed, where they await a proper retirement, the TV station reported.