STATEMENT ON THE POW/MIA FLAG AT TOWN HALL
The Town had been displaying a POW/MIA flag below the United States flag, on its flagpole at the Town Hall in the Village of Rhinebeck. The Town had received requests from various interest groups and organizations seeking to have their own flags displayed on the flagpole too and citing the POW/MIA flag as an example. In what we now realize was an overabundance of caution and too quick of a decision, we took immediate action to remove the POW/MIA flag from the flagpole. We’ve heard from many of our residents in the past day and apologize for any distress or unintended insult that our actions many have caused. This was never our intention.
We have consulted with our attorney regarding the legality of the display of the POW/MIA flag and whether the Town was required by law to display flags of other interest groups and organizations.
The Town Board has now confirmed that the flying of the POW/MIA flag at the Town Hall is addressed by New York State Executive Law §403-a. The law provides, in relevant part, that the Town is encouraged to display the POW/MIA flag at the Town Hall on all days on which the flag of the United States of America is displayed. In addition, the law provides that the Town shall display an official National League of Families POW/MIA flag as designated by 36 U.S.C. 902 at the Town Hall if a congressionally chartered veterans organization, including any post, chapter, detachment, unit, auxiliary unit or society of such veterans’ organization has provided the Town with such flag on Armed Forces Day, the 3rd Saturday in May; Memorial Day, the last Monday in May; Flag Day, the second Sunday in June; Independence Day, July 4th; National POW/MIA Recognition Day; and the 3rd Friday in September except if such date or commemoration cannot be observed due to a religious holiday in which case such observances shall then be conducted on the second Friday in September and Veterans’ Day, November 11th.
We have decided, out of respect for, and appreciation to, our Country’s Veterans, Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action and their loved ones, that the Town will display the POW/MIA flag on the Town Hall flagpole on all days on which the flag of the United States is displayed.
We will be consulting further with our counsel to determine if there are any other state or federal laws which permit and/or require the display of flags of organizations and groups at the Town Hall, or at other Town property, so that we can address those requests in the near future.
The POW/MIA flag has been restored to the Town Hall flagpole.
RHINEBECK TOWN BOARD