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Pride flag stolen from flagpole at VMAC Tuscaloosa

A pride flag raised at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Tuscaloosa was stolen and then returned by VA police.

The pride flag raised at the VAMC Tuscaloosa was returned to its flagpole outside of the Community Living Center on the campus. MARY CLAIRE WOOTEN/APR
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Last week, at one of four Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Alabama, a Pride flag was raised outside of the Community Living Center at the Tuscaloosa location to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

The flag was placed as a gesture to a group of veterans who are most susceptible to prejudice and discrimination in the military. Although it is commonplace for Veterans Affairs campuses across the country to loft Pride flags during the month, on June 3, it was discovered that the flag had been removed from its flagpole.

“Our VA Police quickly identified the individual who had stolen the flag by reviewing surveillance cameras in the area,” wrote VA senior leadership in an email to APR. “Our VA Police made contact with him and he eventually returned the flag to the Tuscaloosa VAMC where it was promptly rehung on the flagpole.”

Since people began adorning their homes and cities with flags that represent their values and interests, those with differing outlooks have stolen or destroyed these symbols.

In some cases, it’s an act of vandalism, a hate crime or theft. Sometimes all three. In the case of the Tuscaloosa VAMC, stealing the pride flag was theft of federal property.

Theft of federal property in Alabama is a Class A misdemeanor which can result in up to $6,000 in fines and a year in jail. Although the flag was returned, there will still be legal consequences. 

According to the VA, an estimated one million veterans identify as LGBTQ+. Those veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community and are significantly less likely to seek routine care, due to fear of discrimination.

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The VA is aware of the high number of veterans who report that they don’t feel welcomed through their doors because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The most definitive, clinical priority at the VA is to ensure that all veterans have access to the appropriate care that they are seeking and communicate to them that they can come to the medical centers to receive it.

Mary Claire is a reporting intern.

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