Va Flaggers Update: 3-31-2014, SCV Camp Visits and Rumors

I enjoy and appreciate very much the opportunity to travel across the South, meeting with SCV Camps, UDC Chapters, and other Southern heritage organizations, and sharing information about the Va Flaggers and Heritage Defense.  I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting GREAT folks who are doing good work, and learn something new every where I travel.  🙂

Last week, I visited with the Stonewall Camp #380 in Chesapeake.  I enjoyed a delicious meal and warm reception from the men of the Camp and "Ladies Night" meant that quite a few wives and friends were in attendance, as well. Stonewall Camp Commander John Sharrett was the very first donor to the I-95 Battle Flag projects, and I was thrilled to get the chance to thank him personally for his support.

The highlight of my night was a chat with Compatriot Goodrich, 91, who is a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge.  He told me he was in the Army, 7th Div, and supplied ammo for Patton’s tanks. Mr. Goodrich remembers one of his Confederate Grandfathers, who died when he was 5.  He is quite a character, and it was a real pleasure to visit and speak with him and truly an honor to offer my thanks for his service.

Another opportunity these visits afford is to talk one on one with supporters, and from time to time they are kind enough to share with many any misinformation they may have heard.  On this occasion, one gentleman shared with me several rumors that he had heard and allowed me the opportunity to quickly dispel them.  We have all played the "Rumor Game" and now how easy it is for information to get twisted, with or without malicious intent.  Encouraged by his desire to seek me out to set the record set straight, I have decided to put a few of these out in our next couple of updates, along with the factual corrections.

This Compatriot had heard several rumors about the situation with the flag at Oakwood Cemetery…

Rumor #1:  "Va Flagger Tripp Lewis stormed into the office at Oakwood, shouted, cursed, and demanded a flag be flown in the Confederate section, damaging the Va Division SCV’s relationship with the City of Richmond."

This rumor is categorically false.  Lucky for us (I suppose?) and coincidentally, the entire visit was taped by a VCU student filming a documentary and can be viewed here…
http://vimeo.com/58484387

Please take a moment to view the footage and you will quickly learn that the accusations are wholly untrue.  There is no shouting, not swearing, and while he is firm in his request, no inappropriate or harsh words.  In fact, the staff VOLUNTEERS to return the flags that had been taken down.   If you read the original update (below) about the flag situation at Oakwood, you will also find information on a follow-up to this visit with the office staff, with even more information to dispel these rumors.

Rumor #2:  "The Virginia Flaggers demanded a Confederate Battle Flag be flown at Oakwood"

Again, this is false.  As you can see in our original email below, the first flag we raised was a Third National.  When asked our opinion, we did suggest that either a Third National or a Battle Flag would be appropriate to mark the soldiers’ graves, but only voiced objection when NO Confederate flag at all was flying.  Currently, there is a Second National flying over a (rotating) State flag at Oakwood, and we have not issued any sort of complaint about this display.

As a reference, I have posted below our original update/report on the flag situation.  To the Compatriot in Virginia Beach, thank you so much for taking the time to address these matters with me, and for your generous support received since that night.  We appreciate it more than you know and hope that others will take the time to investigate the facts and/or contact us for clarification before jumping to any conclusions.

Susan Hathaway
Va Flaggers

Original update/report from April of last year…

At Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond, 17,000+ Confederate dead rest in the Confederate section of the City owned cemetery.  Thanks to an agreement between the Va Div Sons of Confederate Veterans and the City of Richmond, it is now the best kept and well tended section in the cemetery.  Past C-I-C McMichael, and Past Virginia Division Commander John Sawyer all signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the City of Richmond.  This agreement does not transfer the deed or title to Oakwood Cemetery – Confederate Section to the SCV, but it gives the Virginia Division the sole authority to place upright markers for each Confederate Veteran buried there and improvements or markers of any kind. The Virginia Division also has the exclusive responsibility of maintaining the 10 acres of grounds in the Confederate section of Oakwood Cemetery. The Oakwood Committee and Va Div SCV is part of an ongoing effort to properly mark the graves there, which includes pending legal action.  Details can be found here… 
http://www.scvva.org/Oakwood/

I live just a few miles from the cemetery and pass it each day on way to and from work.  I often stop to freshen stick flags, or photograph grave markers at the request of descendants.  In October of last year, we started asking around for help in getting a flag raised on the empty flag pole which was in the Confederate section.  We felt strongly that the men buried there deserved the honor of a flag flying over their final resting place.  On my first attempt, I found the rope and snap hook broken, so recruited one of the Flaggers to help make repairs.

On November 12th, Veterans’ Day, we brought the necessary items to repair and rig the broken rope and raised a Third National over the graves.  At this point, we had no idea how long the flag would remain, but were thrilled at the thought that at least for Veterans’ Day, the soldiers were honored and left with great satisfaction.

Over the next few days, we would drive through the cemetery every few days, and were pleasantly surprised that the flag was untouched, and grateful for every day it flew in honor and memory of the Confederate dead buried there.

When we got word from a friend who lives nearby that the flag was missing a week later, we immediately went back out and raised another one its place, this time a Battle Flag, as it was what I had available and since it was the flag the soldiers would most recognize.  At this point, we did not know who had taken down the flag, but we were determined to continue to replace it, as often as necessary.

Over the next few weeks, the flag was removed several more times and each time, we replaced it with another, at one point raising  a flag with this message written so that whoever was removing the flag would understand our intentions…  "One  hundred more will rise to take its place…"

When that flag came down, TriPp visited the cemetery office to speak with the personnel there about the flag thefts.  The employees were very cordial and admitted that they had been removing the flags because they had instructions to do so.  When TriPp asked to see the instructions in writing, he was referred to a public relations official in the city.  A half dozen calls to the official were never returned.  The video of that visit is part of the documentary at the end of this report.  Please take a minute to view it.

After that meeting, TriPp put his son, Jack on his shoulders and they raised the tie off of the rope so that a ladder would be needed to remove the flag. From that time, the flag flew, UNTOUCHED until a February 3rd visit found that the rope had broken away at the top of the pole and needed to be fixed.  On February 13th, a volunteer with a bucket truck came out and we were able to fix the rope and once again tie off the rope to prevent theft.

A week later, we were THRILLED to receive the news that the Oakwood Committe had replaced the old flag pole with a brand new one, with an internal lanyard system, LOCKED to prevent anyone else from removing the flag.  The Va Flaggers offered our sincere thanks and appreciation to Lee Hart and the committee for this beautiful upgrade!  Now a Confederate flag will fly 24/7 to honor our Confederate dead, without fear of theft or vandalism!  It is a beautiful sight to behold!

FOLLOW UP NOTE:  Last week, TriPp went by the Cemetery Office to offer thanks on behalf of the Va Flaggers and show our appreciation for their cooperation.  The female employee with whom TriPp communicates with in the video was once again very cordial, and relayed the following story:  She told TriPp that recently she had locked up and was about to leave when she decided to take a drive around the cemetery before she left.  On her way back out, she noticed a man at the office door.  Even though it was past closing time, she made the decision to stop and check on him.  The man told her he was looking for a Confederate ancestor.  She went inside and they were able to locate the plot and she volunteered to drive him over to the Confederate section.  She said when the man found the grave he was very moved and grateful and thanked her profusely.  He then mentioned the flag and told her how much it meant to him that the cemetery honored his ancestor by flagging that flag.  She told TriPp that for the first time, she really understood what he had been trying to convey and appreciated for the first time what the flag meant to us.

We don’t know what the future holds, but as of April 22nd, 2013, and due to Va Flagger persistence and refusal to give up,  a flag has flown over the graves of 17,000+ soldiers for over 5 months, and, we believe, hearts and minds have been changed in the journey.