Several veterans in Montana are outraged after the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) pride flag was reportedly flown at the Fort Harrison VA near Helena, Montana earlier this week.
The flag was apparently taken down by an outraged veteran, but has now been replaced and is flying right outside the administration building where the Montana VA Director’s office is located.
Here’s a photo I just received from Helena: (shortly after 3 PM Wednesday)
A phone call and multiple emails I sent to the VA public affairs office have not yet been returned (Update now below). However, after contacting the director’s office, I did receive a call back informing me that VA Director Johnny Ginnity was in meetings and would be contacting me once he is out of the meetings. (I will share his response with you as soon as I have it.)
I spoke with VA Montana Director Ginnity late Wednesday afternoon.
GINNITY: “I don’t really consider it a flag, it’s really a banner…it would never make the criteria for what I would consider a flag…our flags our separate and sacred.”
Ginnity says a diversity committee installed the new flagpole. “I have a mandate that tells me I have to observe the holiday,” added Ginnity, noting that June is LGBT pride month. No other LGBT activities are planned at the Fort Harrison VA for the month of June. The flagpole may also be used to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander month, black history month, breast cancer awareness etc.
Joe Parsetich, the Commander of the DAV Department of Montana, already sent a letter to the VA calling for the flag to be removed.
PARSETICH: I am outraged that the Gay & Lesbian Flag is being flown at the MT VA (Fort Harrison) facility…a federal facility. A federal flagpole is not the place to make a political statement about a subset of veterans or special interest groups. That being said, I feel that out of respect to our federal facility, and to all of the other special interest groups that would love to have their flags flown, the flag should be removed immediately.
Another veteran I spoke with in Helena says he personally spotted the LGBT flag flying on Fort Harrison (VA side) earlier this week. Gary White, the flag was flown outside the admininstration building by the Post Office from a brand new flag pole. It was stolen yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.” (Since replaced, per photo above)
The news obviously will not sit well with Montana veterans who’ve already seen Fort Harrison subject to negative news headlines after a national audit just one year ago exposed veterans waiting 48 days for care from the Fort Harrison VA facility. Then, last November we heard that wait times got worse following the national exposure. It was reported in November that veterans were waiting 69 days, on average, to get care from the Fort Harrison VA.
Recently, VA Secretary Bob McDonald visited Montana for a photo op with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). The VA Secretary and Senator Tester excluded the state’s lone congressman– an Iraq war veteran who served as a commander with SEAL Team 6- from the visit.
You may recall that the Obama Administration has already been playing politics with the LGBT flag being hoisted over our diplomatic missions abroad. Several reports confirmed the hoisting of the LGBT flag at US embassies all over the world.
Photo from Norway.USembassy.gov from June 3, 2015 which notes: “June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. The LGBT community celebrate their identity with events that include parades and educational efforts.”
LETTER FROM MONTANA DAV COMMANDER
On behalf of the veterans I represent in the MT Disabled American Veterans (DAV), I am outraged that the Gay & Lesbian Flag is being flown at the MT VA (Fort Harrison) facility … a federal facility. A federal flagpole is not the place to make a political statement about a subset of veterans or special interest groups. That being said, I feel that out of respect to our federal facility, and to all of the other special interest groups that would love to have their flags flown, the flag should be removed immediately.
Joe Parsetich, Commander
DAV Department of Montana