Is it okay to show your patriotism at the office?
For one Arlington woman, the answer was “no” after she hung an American flag in her office just before the Memorial Day weekend.
Debbie McLucas is one of four hospital supervisors at Kindred Hospital in Mansfield. Last week, she hung a three-by-five foot American flag in the office she shares with the other supervisors.
When McLucas came to work Friday, her boss told her another supervisor had found her flag offensive. “I was just totally speechless. I was like, ‘You’re kidding me,'” McLucas said.
McLucas’ husband and sons are former military men. Her daughter is currently serving in Iraq as a combat medic.
Stifling a cry, McLucas said, “I just wonder if all those young men and women over there are really doing this for nothing.”
McLucas said the supervisor who complained has been in the United States for 14 years and is formerly from Africa. McLucas said that supervisor took down the flag herself.
“The flag and the pole had been placed on the floor,” McLucas said. But McLucas also said hospital higher-ups had told her some patients’ families and visitors had also complained.
“I was told it wouldn’t matter if it was only one person,” she said. “It would have to come down.”
McLucas said hospital bosses told her as far as patriotism was concerned, the flag flying outside the hospital building would have to suffice.
“I find it very frightening because if I can’t display my flag,” McLucas asked, “whatother freedoms will I lose before all is said and done?”
Kindred Healthcare’s corporate headquarters are located in Kentucky. We called them for comment when we were first working on this story Tuesday, but they did not return our calls.
Wednesday morning, however, our story received nationwide attention. We have received hundreds of emails and comments from people who had something to say about it.
Among the supporters was a combat medic in Iraq: Debbie McLucas’ daughter, Lillian McLucas Dressig. “My mom is a true hero in my book,” she said.
It was midnight in Iraq when she spoke to CBS 11. Talking about the stand her mother took which could have cost her job, Lillian said, “If it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. And, I think we need more people to stand up for what’s right in America.”
Several dozen people protested outside the Mansfield hospital Wednesday. And a receptionist at Kindred’s headquarters told us they received many phone calls.
Then, late Wednesday morning, Kindred posted on its website a statement about the incident. It reads, in part: “The disagreement was over the size of the flag and not what it symbolized. We have invited the employee to put the flag back up.”
We talked to McLucas Wednesday afternoon. She says the hospital’s local CEO called and apologized. And McLucas says the woman did tell her she could put the flag back up, which she has done.
But she says when she was first told the flag had to go, nobody mentioned anything about its size being the root of the problem.
“At no point was I afforded the opportunity — [no one said,] ‘Hey Deb, could you get a one and a half by three and a half and hang it instead of hanging this three by five?'” McLucas said.
Even so, McLucas says she’s happy people have spoken out about the issue. “It’s just restored my faith in the American people,” she said.