Andrew Dys

Flag flap: Rock Hill veteran told to take down flag, apartment relents, Old Glory stays up

Glenn Pettus with his American flag at Brittany Place Apartments in Rock Hill.
Glenn Pettus with his American flag at Brittany Place Apartments in Rock Hill.

Outrage filled the heart of Air Force veteran Glenn Pettus Friday morning. Few things could make the 76-year-old veteran madder than being told by his apartment complex he could not fly the American flag outside his apartment.

“I’ll move first, before I take down that flag,” Pettus said. “That flag represents every veteran that fought for this country, died for this country. Take it down? My American flag ain’t comin’down. I will live in the street first.”

By late Friday, however, Pettus was told the directive was a misunderstanding. His American flag can stay.

Pettus has flown Old Glory for a year at Brittany Place apartments on West Main Street. “I love that flag,” said Pettus.

By midday Friday, word had spread around to places like the local chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, where Pettus is a member. One member, a Vietnam veteran, stood at the shiny wood bar of the VFW and said he would die before anybody ever told him to take down an American flag. He used other words that cannot be printed in a newspaper to describe any place that would not allow an American flag to be flown.

Pettus went home and showed the American flag flying. He was a truck driver, a Teamster, for more than 30 years. Then he drove a Rock Hill garbage truck for years after retiring. All Glenn Pettus ever did in his life was work and be proud of his family and his country.

“That flag is what being an American is all about,” Pettus said.

His license plate says veteran. Hats. Shirts. Tattoos from faraway lands on tough old forearms. Much of what he owns says veteran. Pettus comes from the old school that doesn’t say “military.” Those guys of his generation say they were “in the service.”

Because that is what it was, and is. Service to America.

“I quit school when I was 16, joined the service soon as I could,” Pettus said. “That’s what young guys did back then.”

A couple of neighbors walked by to see what the problem was with Pettus and his flag. They were upset, seeing no harm in flying the American flag.

Then a knock came at the door, and a representative from the apartment complex told Pettus that she understood that he was upset and had made some calls. The landlord had agreed that Pettus could keep his American flag flying. But it could not fly outward from the porch pole, but inside his porch space.

But the flag flap was not over. Word reached the top.

Late in the afternoon Friday, Lance Calhoun, director of operations for Southwood Realty, which manages the property where Pettus lives, heard about the situation and said plainly:

“His American flag can stay.”

The concern is some flags or emblems that might be considered offensive to others, such as the Confederate flag, Calhoun said. Southwood does not want controversy or enmity among any residents that some flags might bring, but encourages the unity of American patriotism and the American flag, Calhoun said.

The company flies the American flag at its corporate headquarters and at its properties, Calhoun said. The company never intended for Pettus to not be able to fly his American flag, but a miscommunication among staffers led to a day that swerved one way, then another, and ended finally right where it began.

“There are flags and then there is the American flag,” Calhoun said.

Glenn Pettus bought a new flag and will put it up this weekend. The old one will get a proper burning at the VFW post.

He said he’s “tickled to death” that he can keep his flag up, and he was sorry he got a bit riled earlier.

“I hate I got upset, but you don’t tell me to take my American flag down, because I just ain’t gonna do that.”

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065