NEW BERN, N.C. (WCTI) — A 69-year-old NC veteran quit his job at Food Lion when he was told he could no longer wear an American flag face covering he had been using for months after someone called it offensive.
Food Lion will now allow employees to wear American flag masks, according to a post on the corporation’s Facebook page.
“Food Lion has the utmost respect for the American flag and has a proud, long history of partnering with and supporting military organizations and communities,” the statement reads.
Food Lion officials say the company will still continue to require workers to wear masks without writing, insignia or symbols on them, but masks with the American flag that meet these standards will be allowed.
“We appreciate and thank our more than 77,000 associates who are working hard every day to safely nourish our neighbors in the towns and cities we serve,” the company said.
For Gary Dean, the stars and stripes on his mask symbolize more than a flag but also a way to remember.
“When you lose a friend that is fighting for your freedoms, you get very angry when people disrespect the flag,” Dean said.
That anger is the reason he walked away from his job at a Food Lion in Havelock on Tuesday.
“I had to leave,” Dean said. “On principle.”
He says a manager told him he wasn’t allowed to wear his American flag face covering because it was “offensive.”
“Apparently, corporate came down and said ‘somebody was offended,’” Dean said.
For him, that was a deal breaker.
“As a veteran…my dad being a World War II hero, I lost my best friend in Vietnam. Out of respect for them I can’t say no, I’ll just take my flag and put it in my pocket,” Dean said.