The Northern Westchester Examiner

Veterans Clash over Flying of American Flag at Peekskill City Hall

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A disabled Vietnam veteran and members of the American Legion 274 Post in Peekskill clashed over whether the city was properly flying the American Flag at City Hall during a heated debate last week in front of the Common Council.

George Ondek, a past commander of the Disabled American Veterans who has been lobbying the Council for the last three years to have the U.S. flag displayed from a flag pole on the roof of City Hall, insisted the city was in violation of U.S. Code Article 38 that states the American Flag should be flown above every other flag and in the center.

He maintained the U.S. Flag currently at City Hall on a grounded flag pole should be flown much higher than the MIA/POW and City of Peekskill banners and on the right side as you enter City Hall. The U.S. Flag is now on the left and only a few inches above the other flags.

“I will never give up this fight until the flag is flying right,” a passionate Ondek remarked. “Let’s make Peekskill proud. The least Peekskill can do is fly the flag properly.”

Bob Boddie, a Vietnam veteran and commander of the American Legion in Peekskill, contended the U.S. Code was only a guideline and not binding. He said the city was in compliance with the code and urged the Council to put the issue to rest.

“It’s not law. Nobody is getting arrested for it,” Boddie said. “We have to put it to bed. Post members want to get this over with. Nobody wins here.”

Peekskill City Manager Richard Leins and Deputy Corporation Counsel Melissa Ferraro also argued the city was in compliance with the U.S. Code. Leins said placing a flag on the roof of City Hall presented a safety issue for employees.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Leins said of the rooftop flag pole.

Ondek presented several options for the city to be in compliance with the U.S. Code, including having the American Flag on the roof pole that can be raised and lowered with a rope, as is done at the Youth Bureau and firehouse, or having just one flag pole on the ground with the U.S. Flag at top. He also said removing the city’s banner from the pole would solve the problem.

“We fly it (U.S. Flag) every day and we fly it properly,” Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton, a military veteran, stressed.

Mayor Frank Catalina said he was hoping to reach a conclusion on the issue to stop repeated inquiries from the media and others.

“We don’t want to be a wedge between two veterans groups. Nobody is going to leave here 100% satisfied,” he said. “There’s no Republican or Democratic flag.”

Despite a request from Ondek for the Council to vote on the placement of the flag, the Council did not take any action.

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