Widow, daughter of vets told to take down American Flag or lose benefits

GASTONIA, N.C. — Widows and daughters of veterans told Channel 9 they were told to remove American flags from their Gastonia homes or they would lose their benefits

The housing authority is now working to make policy changes after Channel 9 started investigating.

Jeri Jones is somewhat more hopeful now that she might be able to replace the American flag on the empty post in front of her house.

Two weeks ago a representative with the Gastonia Housing authority told her that the flag had to come down or she could be forced out of her home.

Linda Rhyne was outraged when she received the notice telling her she had to take down the American flag or the housing authority may terminate her assistance.

"What has America come to?" Rhyne said. “It's my God-given right as an American citizen and I can't tell you how it's hurt me."

She attached the flag to her home in honor of her husband Boyce, who fought in the Korean War.

(Linda Rhyne's husband Boyce)

He died after 45 years of marriage and she said the flag was her salute to him.

"That is part of my heart," Rhyne said.

Jeri Jones also had two brothers and a husband serve in the military.

"My father fought in World War II for that flag," Jones said.

She said it was a slap in the face when the manager of the complex removed the flag from her front porch.

"She walked out there and took it out of the holder and handed it to me," Jones said.

The women said it's frustrating that you can't have an American flag attached to federally subsidized housing.

"Anybody that lives in America should be allowed to display the American flag," resident Patricia Waterman said.

Channel 9 first posted their stories online this morning.

Minutes later upset veterans shared our story with the executive director of the Gastonia Housing Authority, who himself is a veteran.

He called Channel 9 reporter Ken Lemon and said he wants to find a way around legislation that prevents residents from flying the flag.

He said regulations prohibit hanging attachments of any kind from the building.

"I don't think my employees acted incorrectly, but this is an issue bigger than attaching an item to a building," he said.

He has instructed attorneys for the housing authority to find a way to allow residents to put their flags back on these posts.

He understands the real obstacle will be getting around freedom of speech that is allowing the American flag to go up while preventing the display of things that may be considered divisive.

In the meantime, housing authority officials said the women could put their flags back up for now.

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