Veteran questions City of Monroe policy after American flags removed from graves

The veteran claims he has put flags out on veterans’ graves for years.
The City of Monroe said it requires pre-approval for certain objects left at gravesites.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:37 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONROE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Union County veteran reached out to WBTV after he said the City of Monroe removed American flags he placed next to graves.

He said it’s something he’s been doing for years to honor men and women who have served.

This happened at the Suncrest Cemetery in Monroe.

“I come out here and I walk and run every morning and I like to look at the old graves,” Michael Belk said. “A lot of people I served with, a lot of people that served in the Army or Navy before me are buried out here, and probably about two years ago I started putting little flags on their graves.”

Belk said he was surprised when he returned a few days later to find the flags gone.

“I had a lot of flags in this cemetery and one day about two weeks ago there were no flags and there were no flowers,” he said.

He said he reached out to the city but did not receive a response, so he contacted WBTV.

“If somebody raised their right hand and put their left hand on the Bible and swore to defend this country and took an oath, what’s wrong with putting an American flag standing up at their tombstone?” he asked.

A city spokesperson said the flags were blocking their lawnmowers, so the maintenance team had to remove them.

That spokesperson also pointed to a notice posted outside of the cemetery, which says obstructions above the ground to grave sites require prior approval by the city.

Belk admits he missed the notice, but believes city officials should do more to inform the community about this.

“A lot of people that come out here come from from out of town and they have no way of knowing, and they spend a lot of for a flower or a flag or whatever, and they put it down and, you know, it could be gone in a week,” he said.

He hopes the city will reconsider the ordinance.

“I’ll see the flag, it gets you,” he said. “You’ve got guys that you’ve served with that did die, or you know of people in your community that were in a different branch that served and maybe didn’t come home, and it means a lot to me. It means an awful lot.”

Click here to read the full city ordinance.

Also Read: 20 Years Later: WBTV veteran reporter reflects on the Iraq War