Sun, Jun 16, 2024

Thousands of people walk the steps inside Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. Some veterans say it’s disrespectful to walk on the flag design. The city will redo it.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — “It was not well thought out,” says Lt. Colonel Bob Adelhelm, who served under the American flag in the U.S. Marines for 23 years. He’s not happy to see the giant flag designs on two tall sets of stairs in the lobby of the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena

“You wonder why the younger generations have no respect for the flag? It’s because we’re doing things like this. We show we have no respect,” Col. Adelhelm says, as he points to the arena. 

He founded the Jacksonville chapter of The Semper Fi Society and spoke for his fellow veterans who retired from serving in the Marines. 

Harrison Conyers, Director of Jacksonville’s Military and Veterans Department, says the city has received “positive feedback” on the design, which was installed about a year ago.  In fact, he says, some local veterans were involved in the design planning. But, he says, his office is listening to the veterans who are upset about it now.

If you look closely at the steps, the flag is actually not on the surface where feet walk. It’s on the side. 

That doesn’t appease the veterans upset about the issue.  “Well, you’re giving the impression you’re walking on the flag, and that’s the same,” Col. Adelhelm says.

Conyers says the city considers redoing the design an “easy change.” 

“The artwork on those steps will change, and it will not include the United States flag,”  Conyers says.  

The bill to change the design?  According to Conyers, it’s $10,00, and it’s already approved in the city budget. Conyers says he expects the changes to come this fall.

The city is also transforming other parts of the lobby to include the American flag and other patriotic flags.  Plus, the display areas in the center of the lobby will be filled with items to honor military service. The sports memorabilia in the cases now will likely be moved to where the Jacksonville Icemen hockey team is located. 

Col. Adelhelm says he’s glad to see the emphasis on the military, although it’s been a long wait.  “They’re doing some good stuff in there –finally–putting veteran things in a veterans’ arena,” he says. 

Col. Adelhelm says properly displaying any depiction of the American flag is not just to show respect to veterans still alive in our community. It’s to pay honor to those who fought in wars to save our freedom.  “I grew up around guys that stormed the Beaches of Normany…and flew over Germany in WWII,” he says. 

He says anyone who served in the military and saw a flag draped over a coffin or a body bag understands. 

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