Allen Thornwell, a 29-year-old former Marine, served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He never expected to lose his job over his care for the American flag.
Thornwell was one month into a six-month contract with Time Warner Cable when he was called into work unexpectedly on Memorial Day. He saw the flag was not lowered to half-mast, and lowered it himself, out of respect for the flag and those who lost their lives serving. He was told by one of the security guards that, “It’s company policy that no one touches the flagpole.” Within minutes after Thornwell had lowered the flag, it was back at full-staff. The next day, he was fired from his job at Time Warner Cable, his contract cancelled.
The U.S. flag code actually says that on Memorial Day, the flag should be at half-staff until noon, then returned to its normal position. When Thornwell lowered the flag to half-mast, it was around 2:30 p.m. He says he did not even think about asking permission. He just knew it was Memorial Day and the flag was not at half-mast. He said the security guard who escorted him back to his work station told him, “I fought, I understand.”
Retired Marine Col. Chris Woodbridge, editor of the Marine Corps Gazette, calls the incident “a very sad misunderstanding” that illustrates a widening gap between the country and its military. Today, fewer than 1 percent of Americans wear a uniform. “Not only do the vast majority not serve, but they don’t really know anybody who does,” says Woodbridge.
Thornwell’s best friend, Geoff, also a former Marine, took his own life two years ago after returning from the war.
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