U.S. Air Force veteran Gary Dean says he quit his job at a Food Lion in Havelock, N.C. after he was told he could not wear his American flag-print face covering to work.
Dean told ABC 12 he was shocked when he was told he could not wear his American flag face covering, especially considering Havelock is a military town. Havelock encompasses Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and is just 40 miles away from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Dean himself served six years, with four years in an active-duty capacity and two more in inactive reserve.
“Apparently corporate came down and said ‘Somebody was offended by the image of the American flag on the face covering,'” Dean told ABC 12.
It was after this request to remove his American flag face covering that Dean said, “As a veteran, my dad being a World War II hero, my best friend killed in Vietnam, out of respect for them I can’t just say no, I’ll take my flag and put it in my pocket. I had to quit, out of principle.”
Dean said, “Why would anybody for any reason be offended by the American flag, the stars and stripes?”
Food Lion confirmed its policy in a statement to ABC 12.
“At Food Lion, we have great respect for the American flag. Like many other organizations, we also have policies that guide the attire and conduct of associates in the workplace. As part of our effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the well-being of our associates and customers, we’ve required associates to either wear reusable face masks provided by Food Lion or choose to wear a different face covering while working. However, all face coverings must adhere to standards set by the company and communicated to each of our more than 77,000 associates,” the company statement reads. “The policy prohibits associates from wearing clothing with writing, insignia or symbols. The dress code is meant to ensure a consistent and professional representation of our associates inside of our stores.”
While Food Lion’s corporate policy does not allow facemasks like the one Dean wore, the store reportedly does have special parking stalls for military veterans, which are designated with American flags.
Dean said while he was not angry with the store managers, he disagreed with the corporate policy and said he would prioritize the flag first.
“I love this country,” Dean said. “I love that my dad went off and fought for my country, nearly got killed for this country but came back and raised a family. I love everything about that flag. So, yeah, that is my priority.”