As we commemorate the heroes who fought and died today on 72nd anniversary of the Normandy landings, let’s revisit one former Marine who was fired because he lowered the flag to half-staff outside of his workplace on Memorial Day. Allen Thornwell, who was recently working with Time Warner Cable in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he didn’t know he needed permission to lower the flag. The former marine said he was thinking of one of his close friends, and fellow marine, Sgt. Geoffrey Day, who had committed suicide after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (via Charlotte Observer):
When Charlotte veteran Allen Thornwell lowered his employer’s American flag to half-staff on Memorial Day, he says he did not think to ask permission or consider the possibility that he had done anything wrong.
Instead, the 29-year-old former Marine, who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says he was thinking about his country, the meaning of the holiday and his best friend, Geoff, another Marine who killed himself two years ago after returning stateside.
On Tuesday [May 31], Thornwell was fired. A manager at the placement service that arranged the vet’s job at Time Warner Cable in Charlotte told him that the company was disturbed by Thornwell’s “passion for the flag and (his) political affiliation.”
Thornwell also took his outrage to Facebook, naming Time Warner and posting a video.
Contacted this week, Thornwell said he remains in shock over what happened.
“I’m not even mad right now,” he says. “I don’t know what kind of moral compass you need to fire a veteran on Memorial Day for lowering the flag.”
A Time Warner Cable spokesman confirmed Friday that the former Marine “was no longer under contract” with the company but declined further comment.
Whether Time Warner Cable was improperly displaying the flag during the country’s annual tribute to its dead veterans is a matter of debate. The U.S. Flag Code, which offers guidance on how to fly the flag during holidays, says the banner should be at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day then returned to its normal position. Thornwell said the incident took place around 2:30 p.m.
Inside the security building, Thornwell said he was told by one of the guards that “It’s company policy that no one touches the flagpole.”
By the time Thornwell left – and only a few minutes after he had lowered it – the flag was back at full-staff.
Thornwell said he reacted angrily at what he took as a sign of disrespect to him and other vets. He can be heard cursing twice in a short video he shot at the scene with his phone. He said he wanted to send a message to military personnel around the world that “this is what the people back home think about us.”
The former Marine says he was never disrespectful or out of control. In fact, he said the security guard escorting him back to his work station told him, “I fought. I understand.”
Thornwell was interviewed by Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade this morning, who asked him if he was able to tell his superiors about why he lowered the flag, citing Sgt. Day, but Thornwell said they did not give him that opportunity. Thornwell is now looking for a new job, and said that he would not be going back to Time Warner Cable in the event that they offer an apology.
Being fired for “passion for the flag and political affiliation,” the whole situation is ridiculous and a disgrace. Kilmeade asked Thornwell about his political affiliation, which he said was nothing more than “peace and love.”
“I really don’t have a true political affiliation,” he said.Editor's Note (Matt): Doh! It's half-staff, not mast. Sorry about that.