MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 8, 2009

Veterans not giving up fight to have POW-MIA flag flying

Vets meet at forum on the issue

Tears were shed and angry voices heard Wednesday at American Legion Post 15 at a forum discussing the lack of a POW-MIA flag in front of the Muskogee Civic Center.

The city council was invited to explain why they haven’t taken any action, but only Mayor John Tyler Hammons showed up to represent the city to approximately 30 in attendance.

Veterans have been pressing the city government to include a flag representing prisoners of war and missing in action. So far, only the American and Oklahoma flag are in front of the civic center.

Dean Swan, a member of the post, said the council’s lack of action was tarnishing Muskogee’s reputation.

“The city council is embarrassing us in the world,” he said. “Everybody in the U.S. understands, honors and recognizes this flag except our council.”

Jim Smith, a Vietnam veteran and service officer with Post 15, expressed outrage about the ongoing battle about getting a flag pole at the civic center and including a POW-MIA flag.

“We’ve had a battle even getting an American flag in front of the civic center,” he said. “Our goal was to have the American, Oklahoma and POW-MIA flags flying. The councilmen are against it. I don’t think they know what it means to us.”

Smith said there were 58,000 killed in Vietnam, and 1,600 are still missing.

Nancy Ellis, a volunteer at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, said the city council needs to be told about the strong veterans’ presence in Muskogee.

“We need to remind the council that this is a veterans’ town,” she said. “We’ve got the regional office and the VA medical center.”

Hammons said he fully supports the veterans’ efforts.

“The VA mandates that the POW-MIA flag flies at their facilities,” he said. “If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.”

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