BRISTOL — Councilor Andrew Howe promises to continue discussions with St. Joseph’s Cemetery management and the Bristol Veterans Council following the removal of flags from veterans’ graves.
“It’s appalling and I won’t tolerate it,” Howe said.
Howe said that as a liaison with the Veterans Council, he received “numerous” phone calls from residents about flags being removed from veterans’ graves at St. Joseph’s Cemetery.
“I’ve had at least a dozen residents contact me,” he said. “I was appalled when I saw the flags thrown into the dumpsters. It is a tradition in Bristol to put flags on the graves of veterans every year. I am in my 40s and remember to come out and do this when I was a kid. I come from a military family and was very upset to see this happen just as our city was losing an amazing police duo. I saw pictures of dozens of flags in dumpsters.They didn’t even contact the American Legion to dispose of them properly.
Where a worn flag has been removed from graves in recent years, to be exchanged for a new flag, the old flags are considered properly disposed of when burned during flag removal ceremonies at the local American Legion.
Howe pointed out that the flags that are placed on veterans’ graves are not paid for by the city. The Veterans Council raises funds for them and volunteers, from groups such as the Boy Scouts, place them.
“By throwing them away, they’re wasting residents’ money,” Howe said.
Howe wants to meet with the management of St. Joseph’s Cemetery. He will also address the Bristol Veterans Council ahead of their next meeting.
“We should be able to find a compromise,” Howe said. “Maybe if we put them up over the holidays, we’ll come and take them out at a certain time. We as a city could take them down and make sure they’re disposed of properly.
David Carello, chairman of the Bristol Veterans Council, has been in discussions with the management of St. Joseph’s Cemetery since the matter was brought to his attention. The cemetery is managed by the archdiocese and came under new management on September 12. The cemetery released a statement that, effective Oct. 1, all potted plants and decorations would be removed from burial sites.
Carello said more than 7,000 flags are placed on veterans’ graves in Bristol each year. He said they had been placed on graves at St. Joseph’s Cemetery before Memorial Day for decades without issue.
“I view their removal as a desecration of veterans’ graves,” Carello previously said.
After Carello spoke to management, a compromise arrangement was reached whereby the flags and supports around the upright headstones can remain year-round.
“I think it was the best result that could have been achieved given that the Archdiocese could (if it wished) stick to its laws and remove all flags between Memorial Day and Flag Day” , Carello said.
The reason for the policy change, Carello said, was that the cemetery had labor issues when it came to maintaining the property. Cemetery staff, Carello was told, struggle to work around flat memorials with their lawnmowers. Cemetery management has agreed to allow a single apartment to represent veterans buried in sections with flat stones at ground level year-round.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or [email protected]