When Stan Sniezyk took his weekly visit to his father's grave last weekend at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery, he noticed a heartbreaking sight.
Two piles of torn and tattered American flags in the Exeter cemetery.
"Everyone in this cemetery fought under that banner," he told WPRI-TV, "and every fiber of that flag is their blood, sweat, and tears.”
So Sniezyk snapped photos of the two piles — one by a dumpster and the second by an open storage shed, the station noted — and shared them on social media.
“I’ve been getting messages from California, Texas, Connecticut, Florida,” he told WPRI. “People are absolutely outraged at what they’ve done, how they’ve disgraced the American flag in a veterans cemetery of all places.”
Kasim Yarn, the state’s new director of Veterans Affairs, happened to see Sniezyk's photos as well and said he made a beeline for the cemetery.
“I was speechless when I saw,” he told the station. “Flags were not stowed properly and prepared for proper disposal. Flags were in bags, on the ground. The place was a mess, totally. Procedures weren’t being followed.”
But Yarn said he’s implementing new policies and procedures on the proper handling and storage of flags along with inspections.
“At very minimum I will go there weekly and walk around,” Yarn told WPRI. “I will open up all those doors, every facility, to ensure things are being placed in a proper manner.”
The piles of flags were properly burned after the cemetery got a fire department permit, the station said.