MINERAL WELLS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Mineral Wells City Council is reconsidering an ordinance that bans flags from being displayed at the graves of veterans at any time other than two weeks around Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
The ordinance, which was passed last week, includes a host of regulations concerning what can be placed around city graves. Teddy bears and statues must be removed 21 days after the funeral. Mourners cannot place flowers near a gravesite unless they’re in a vase.
The volunteer-staffed Cemetery Board made the suggestions last week to the council. City Manager Lance Howerton said there was never meant to be any disrespect.
He cited the city’s relationship with Fort Wolters, a military installation located four miles northeast of Mineral Wells that was ultimately shuttered in 1973. It began as an Army camp in 1925, according to the Texas State Historical Association, and grew to hold nearly 25,000 troops near the end of World War II.
It was shut down in 1946, six months after the war ended. In 1951, the Cold War prompted the U.S. Air Force to reopen it as the Wolters Air Force Base. The Army returned in 1956 and it became known as Fort Wolters in 1963.
In 1973, it was finally deactivated.
“This community has had a very long history –– tradition –– with the military, with Camp Wolters and then Fort Wolters for many, many years,” said Howerton. “As a result of that, we have a heritage of military involvement in our community. I think they were trying not to be insensitive at all.”
Robert Veach, an Army veteran, visits his father’s grave at Woodland Park Cemetery in Mineral Wells often. He’s proud of his father’s service; that’s why he placed the flag near his gravesite.
“When a veteran tells you they love the flag more than life itself, they mean it,” Veach said.
Veach and other veterans voiced their concern about the regulations to the council, prompting the reexamination. He’s willing to compromise with the city, however.
“Maybe we have to raise the flag a little so it would be easier to weed-eat and mow,” Veach said. “It’s a symbol of the country; we can’t let it go without a fight. We can’t.”
Another meeting to discuss the issue will happen at 6:30 p.m. on July 10 at the Mineral Wells City Hall Annex.
Mineral Wells is a town of about 17,000 residents located 50 miles east of Fort Worth in Parker County.