Titusville plans to reduce the number of American flags displayed on U.S. 1 to end a years-long dispute over flag etiquette.
More than 200 U.S. flags are part of the city’s Avenue of Flags program that began in 1976.
The direction flags are placed has vexed military veterans and the group that organizes the effort for the past few years.
Ed Spence, commander of American Legion Post No. 1, is annoyed at the sight during his commutes though Titusville.
“I drive back and forth in Titusville on a daily basis,” said Spence, who is an Air Force veteran. “Every time I see them, it just kind of aggravates me that they are being flown wrong.”
The union, the blue area of the flag with stars, should face east on a north-south street, according to the U.S. Flag Code.
However, nearly 70 light poles in the median of U.S. 1 have have two flags, one with the union facing east, the other to the west.
The flags were free-flying on poles until 2007, when the committee switched to fixed vertical brackets similar to banners in order to cut down on costs associated with wear and tear.
The flags initially had been displayed with all the unions facing east until complaints led the city’s flag and memorial committee to seek an expert opinion from Whitney Smith of the Flag Research Center in Winchester, Mass.
Smith founded the North American Vexillological Association in 1967 and is the organization’s president emeritus. The term vexillology refers to the scholarly analysis of all aspects of flags.
“When on a divided highway, flags are displayed on both sides of the center lightpole the union of each flag should be next to the lightpole,” Smith wrote in reference to the Titusville flags in 2009.
The flag and memorial committee responsible for the display took Smith’s advice and changed the flags, which triggered a dispute with military veterans.
“When I got the information from the expert, I’ve been standing my ground ever since,” said Barbara McGillicuddy, chairwoman of the committee. “We thought we were doing the right thing, but it let go a flurry of opinions.”
Dave Galloway, an Army veteran and member of the American Legion Post’s honor guard, is part of a group that goes into schools to teach flag etiquette. He also takes offense to the current flag display.
“We are veterans, and we honor the flag,” Galloway said. “We respect the flag and what it stands for. To display it wrong is a concern to us.”
The committee this month came up with a solution: Remove one of the flags from each of the pairs along U.S. 1, leaving the remaining flag with the union facing east.
Titusville public works crews are expected to begin the fix next week by removing about 70 flags.
“There will no longer be a double-flag display,” said Kevin Cook, Titusville public works director. “There will be only one with the stars to the east side.
“I think that will address the concern.”