Wilson students, Sinking Spring VFW remember veterans for Memorial Day

Events like this from Memorial Day 2018 in Pleasant View Cemetery in Spring Township will be repeated this year. In a reversal, the Wolf administration granted a local company a waiver to distribute flags to Berks County to mark the solemn holiday.

The answer is no.

FlagZone LLC near Gilbertsville will not be allowed to sell flags for Memorial Day observances, and Berks County is still scrambling for flags for Memorial Day cemetery events.

According to a statement to the MediaNews Group from Casey Smith, communications director at the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development: "As the administration’s main priority is protecting the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians, flagmaking operations are thus deemed non-life-sustaining. While FlagZone will unfortunately need to suspend its operations this year, we are hopeful that in the years to come, it will be able to continue to provide Pennsylvanians with a symbol of our patriotism for future Memorial Day celebrations."

This is the list of exemptions for the coronavirus shutdown granted by the state in a searchable database.  

Daniel Ziegler, FlagZone president, said Tuesday that he had not yet received word from the state, and was not hopeful about his appeal.

"We're trying everything we can to honor the veterans," Ziegler said. "Perhaps it will happen in June so we can celebrate them July 4. They (the flags) are in our warehouse and we can't get them free.

Last week he said the flags could easily be shipped on short notice with a few workers brought back to the factory.

Ziegler, also president of the domestic flag manufacturers group, said there would be flags on the market but they would be made in China.

Ziegler said he believes his company will survive a lengthy shutdown but many others won't.

"If a business goes under, what happens to those employees?" he said. "Almost every business will be life sustaining. The further the governor pushes, the more companies will have to make decisions."

Gov. Tom Wolf has extended the shutdown to June 4 for counties in the "red" zone, which includes Berks and Montgomery and the rest of the counties in southeast region. 

Lebanon, Lancaster and Schuylkill counties have said they are going to move away from red on their own. Berks is weighing its options and hopes to design a compromise plan.

Wolf came down hard Monday on counties considering whether to buck his guidance.

For flags, Berks is in limbo, said Ken Lebron, county Veterans Affairs administrator. Berks needs about 55,000 flags for ceremonies in more than 200 cemeteries. He said he hasn't heard from Ziegler.

"Our purchasing department is also working with our solicitor to identify legal obligations to our signed contract with Flag Zone as it pertains to sourcing from another provider," Lebron said in an email. "We will not be purchasing American flags made in China.”

Vincent Naso, president of Colebrooke Enterprises, a sewing operation in Douglass Township, Montgomery County, makes flags for FlagZone, which is about five minutes away.

His was among the companies granted an exemption by the state to operate to make face masks, but not to make flags. He was also turned down to resume flag making and lamented the state's thumbs-down on FlagZone.

"The people are here saying we're making face masks, why can't we make flags since we're here?" he said.

Smith urged residents to look to the future: "During this unprecedented time, the Wolf Administration knows that now, more than ever, Americans are wishing for a return to normalcy. Memorial Day celebrations and ceremonies are a staple in our nation, and many Pennsylvanians will need to adjust their routine this year to accommodate our new normal.

"During times of crisis, it is so important for citizens to stand together as one —looking toward the future while honoring our past — and we encourage all Pennsylvanians to honor our nation’s fallen in their own special way this year, while adhering to the social distancing guidelines and closure orders issued by Governor Wolf and Secretary (Rachel) Levine."

comments powered by Disqus