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Flogging a Dead Horse

How many different ways can I draw attention to the fact that the County of Maui is substandard in their responsibility of taking care of the Maui Veterans Cemetery?

As we were driving by the cemetery on our way home on Sunday, I noticed the flag on display was split in two.

This is not the first time I have tried to bring attention to the fact that the only cemetery on Maui dedicated to our veterans is neglected and poorly maintained.

In the past I have emailed the County of Maui Mayor’s Office multiple times (no response), as well as local county council members multiple times (no response), and have even emailed Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard a few times and was sent a “thank you,” form letter email saying that they are looking into it (which is more than anyone else has done, although over a year of investigating is a bit much). I even corresponded with our local newspaper, which had printed a story about the state of the flag back in 2015.

I not only emailed the County of Maui parks and recreation department multiple times (no response), I have even applied for the position of veterans cemetery caretaker. At this point I have only received confirmation that my application had been accepted and that I was in the running for the job. The position is still open as of August 17th, 2017, as you can see from the screenshot below.

I wanted to know what the standard for displaying the American flag was, and how it should be maintained or removed, so I decided to look up the information on the interwebs.

  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
  • Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day. Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well.

I’m pretty sure the cemetery doesn’t follow the standard of rule of retiring the flag at sunset and raising it again in the morning, so I do not know why I am stunned that they wouldn’t follow the guidelines for removing and replacing a distressed flag.

After seeing the flag in its current state, I sent another round of emails to all the usual suspects: County of Maui mayor Alan Arakawa, county council chair Mike White, congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, County of Maui department of parks and recreation, and finally the local newspaper, the Maui News.

Feeling like I am flogging a dead horse (or beating a dead horse if you would prefer), I expected the same results as the previous two attempts to bring attention to the cemetery’s poor upkeep. Well, just when you think you have it all figured out, something throws you for a loop.

Over the course of the next three days I was flooded with responses from all the different people and their offices I had emailed on Sunday night.

First to respond was an email from the parks department partnership and community coordinator, explaining that she was going to look into having the flag replaced immediately, but that the department of public works was in charge of cemeteries on Maui. Next I got a phone message from the mayor’s office assuring me that he was in contact with the head of the department of public works to find out about the flag. I then took a phone call from congresswoman Tusli Gabbard’s office who apologized for not following up over a year ago and found out someone had closed the file incorrectly. The last person I got an email from was Maui county council chair Mike White assuring me he had forwarded my email and photo to the proper department with the hope of a quick resolution.

One person, who I am still waiting to hear from is the director of the department of public works. I was hoping to speak to them about volunteering my time to help in any way at the Maui veterans cemetery. I am tired of hoping and writing that someone will act, and would rather get my hands dirty doing whatever I can to make sure our veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they have earned.

I cannot explain how over the previous two years nobody followed up on any of my emails or blogs about the poor condition of the Maui veterans cemetery, or why this round of emails lit a fire under everyone’s backside, which caused them to stop sitting on their hands and attempt to solve the quick fix problem.

I am grateful for the rapid response from all the offices and people involved and I hope my readers will be pleased to know the flag has been replaced at the veterans cemetery.

If you are feeling nostalgic or angry, you can read my two previous posts about the state of the veterans cemetery below.

An Open Letter to Maui County

Death Before Dishonor