An area veteran’s protest over not being able to wear an American flag face covering at work has led to change.
Food Lion announced on its social media platforms late Friday that it has changed its policy on face coverings and that associates can wear masks with the American flag image as long as the masks adhere to other uniform standards.
The news came after Gary Dean, an Air Force veteran also well-known for his years as a TV news broadcaster in Eastern North Carolina, quit his part-time job at the Havelock Food Lion this week after being told he could not wear the American flag mask.
“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. Over the past few days, we have been listening to our associates and customers about Food Lion’s mask policy as part of our uniform standards,” the company said in a statement. “As COVID-19 spread, Food Lion worked to protect its associates by making masks available to be worn as part of their uniform. While we continue to maintain our uniform standards requiring associates to wear masks without writing, insignia or symbols, we will allow associates to wear masks with the American flag that meet this standard. 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.”
Dean had been wearing a gaiter depicting an American flag but it had no wording or other decoration on it.
He said in his own social media posts documenting his action that he had worn the mask as a show of patriotism many times and he was surprised when corporate management indicated his mask had offended some people.
Dean said he enjoyed working at the store and wasn’t angry with the store itself but was against the principle of the decision that didn’t allow him to show support for his country and the American flag, he noted in the Sept. 1 post on his Facebook page, the day that he quit his job at the store.
The Havelock store is located in the town where Marine Corps Air Station is located and he said his mask wasn’t the only show of patriotism there.
The parking lot in front of the store has a reserved spot for military veterans with American flags waving from the top of a sign at that reserved space. Each Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the store offers special military discounts and displays American flags at each register.
“I am so proud of my flag, and of everyone who has ever served under my flag,” Dean wrote.
Dean’s decision to quit his job at Food Lion in protest made national news and late Friday he announced he had heard from Food Lion’s district vice president about the decision to allow associates to wear masks with the American flag image.
He said in his latest post that not all the response to his actions was positive and he has been “vilified and verbally crucified by the haters on the political left.” He thanked those who have stood by him and said their collective voice brought change.
“It shows that one voice can be the spark that ignites a national debate that brings about change in the name of freedom and our rights as citizens,” Dean wrote.
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