VFW Florida Headquarters Flies American Flag in Northeast Ocala
Foreign War Veterans State Warrant Officer Quartermaster Eugene Perrino has a message for the thief (s) who stole multiple flags, including an American flag, from outside the VFW headquarters in northeast Ocala.
“It’s about as low as it gets, stealing flags from veterans who have served their country. We have a video and we will continue,” said Perrino, a retired US Army officer with over two decades of service.
Perrino said the theft of veterans “will not be tolerated”.
VFW State Headquarters, 543 NE Sanchez Ave., Ocala, adjacent to Tuscawilla Park, serves 165 VFW stations in Florida, according to Rosalie Bice, who manages the headquarters website and Facebook page and helps out in the office.
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Flights around Memorial Day and July 5
According to headquarters staff, the first incident happened around Memorial Day this year. A person can be seen on surveillance video taking the flag from prisoners of war.
The flags of the United States and the State of Florida were flown on the night of July 5.
Again, a video shows a person taking the American flag. The two videos were handed over to the police.
“We brought out the flags overnight. (The flag poles) are on,” said Christine Harris, executive secretary at VFW headquarters.
The flags are hoisted on three 30-foot poles in front of the seat.
“The person took the flag down and let the ropes hang down,” Harris said.
She said the flags are 4 feet by 6 feet and would be a bit large for private use.
A sign of disrespect for all veterans
Lewis Alston, 70, is a Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran. He was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries caused by shrapnel sustained in combat. Alston is also a member of the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard, which bestows military honors on veterans.
He said stealing the American flag “disrespects all veterans” and the Gold Star Mothers whose children have made the ultimate sacrifice for the country.
He said the red on the flag is “my blood” and that of other veterans.
Alston said if someone urgently needed a flag, they could probably find an organization that would give them one.
Rosalie Bice’s husband Dave, a Marine Corps veteran and volunteer at the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park, said stealing an American flag was “an offense against all of our veterans.”
Meanwhile, special night vision type cameras are installed at VFW headquarters, and replacement flags will not be deployed until enhanced security measures are put in place.
The lack of flags flying outside caused stress for office staff.
After all, the American flag “is what we all are,” said Harris.