Veterans and lawmakers are angry with the White House’s decision to remove a flag that honors missing war veterans from a prominent position atop the White House to a much less visible location on the South Lawn.
Many see the move as not only disrespectful but potentially illegal as well.
The flag in the center of the controversy is dedicated to prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action.
The White House posted a video back in June showing that the flag had been relocated in a private ceremony full military honors, months after Donald Trump signed into law a bill that required the flag to be flown at certain federal properties including the White House every day.
The revelations about the flag come as Trump is surrounded by controversy concerning veterans. Last week a story broke alleging that while in Paris Trump called fallen American soldiers’ “losers” and “suckers.”
Trump has denied the allegations, however, his past statements about veterans like Sen. John McCain have many believing that Trump did disrespect American soldiers. Trump has also openly criticized his own generals a new book written by journalist Bob Woodward says.
“It’s bad enough that President Trump publicly ridicules American heroes like Senator McCain and others who were captured on the battlefield. He inexplicably promotes the Confederate flag but fails to fly the POW/MIA flag,” said Democratic Senator Jack Reed, a co-sponsor of the bill. “It’s part of a pattern of disrespect by President Trump toward those who honorably served our nation.”
On Thursday, Reed, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Margaret Hassan, who also co-sponsored the bill, sent a letter to the White House requesting it reconsider the flag’s location.
“This decision to abruptly move the POW/MIA Flag from atop the White House to an area that is apparently not visible to the public may violate federal law and does not appropriately honor the service and sacrifices of American prisoners of war, missing service members, and their families,” the letter reads.
Hassan said that law was intended to pay tribute to the prisoners of war and those missing in action and called on the White House to reverse its decision.
The White House defended the change of venue but did not offer a reason for it.
“President Trump dedicated a POW/MIA memorial site earlier this year on the White House grounds to forever remember our heroic service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “The President selected a site on the Southwest corner of the South Lawn for this prominent and sacred memorial, which is visible to all those who visit the White House, that features the POW/MIA flag,” he added.
The POW/MIA flag is a black and white flag and reads “you are not forgotten.” It depicts a man beneath a guard tower gazing down at a barbed-wire fence. Since World War II close to 82,000 American service members are still listed as missing.
A U.S. law requires the flag to be displayed in a “manner designed to ensure visibility to the public.” Where the flag is now flown it can only be seen from certain vantage points outside of the White House complex.
The American Ex-Prisoners of War group called the move a “slap in the face.” The organization represents 10,000 former POWs and their families.
“While he touts his support for the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, actions speak louder than words. And this action speaks of disdain for Prisoners of War and the Missing in Action,” the group said.
During Memorial Day weekend Trump bragged about his signing of the law to representatives of Rolling Thunder, a veteran’s advocacy group.
“In the months since that righteous flag has proudly flown over the White House; you probably noticed it today,” Trump stated at the time.
The relocation of the flag created inquiries by veterans’ advocates.
“It was supposed to be over the White House,” Artie Mueller, founder and executive director of Rolling Thunder, said, adding that he did not see it as illegal or disrespectful, but hoped it would be restored to its prior location.