Cody Meredith mounted a U.S. flag — black and white, with a single red stripe — on his pickup to send a message of his respect for fallen firefighters.
But when he drove to work Monday, his supervisors at Crete Area Medical Center gave him a message of their own, his wife said: Take the flag off the truck, or take the truck off hospital property.
Before his shift ended, his wife would write about the order on Facebook and contact the newspaper, and the hospital would call it a misunderstanding and a mistake. But Kristin Meredith would continue to call it an outrage, something that shouldn’t disappear simply because the hospital apologized.
“It’s Sept. 11, Patriot Day,” she said. “We take fallen firefighters very seriously.”
Here’s why: She and her husband are both volunteer firefighters. Their fathers were firefighters. Cody Meredith recently lost a friend, a firefighter, to cancer.
“It’s just something that’s always been in both of our lives,” she said.
She paid $30 for the flag on eBay last year, she said, with the proceeds going toward the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation — though flags also are available at Walmart and Amazon. The red stripe honors fallen firefighters; similar flags with blue stripes honor fallen law enforcement officers.
Her husband had flown a regular U.S. flag from his pickup at work July 4 without objection, Kristin Meredith said. So he attached the black, white and red flag Sunday and drove to his job in the hospital kitchen early Monday.
Cody Meredith declined to comment; he didn’t want to get in further trouble with his employer, he said. But Kristin Meredith was there and watched part of it play out, she said.
Nothing had happened during the first four hours of his shift. He’d parked his pickup near the building and not in the regular parking lot. But he often parked there without hassle, she said.
Kristin Meredith had joined him for breakfast when they were approached by a hospital employee, she said.
“He asked Cody to remove it, and Cody’s like, ‘Why?’”
‘The guy said, ‘Just remove the flag and we’ll be done with it.’”
She wasn’t there when her husband met with other supervisors, she said, but he told her he tried to explain what the flag signified. The order to remove it still stood, she said.
Instead of taking the flag down, the couple traded vehicles. She drove the pickup to her job at a bar and grill in Dorchester, where nobody complained, and where she got on Facebook.
Her friends called it sad, terrible, ludicrous and worse.
One wrote: “What's wrong with showing you are honoring the fallen firefighter as well as the many civilian lives that were lost through no fault of their own. What's this country coming to?”
Another wrote: “That's crap! No respect for those who give so much!”
After the Journal Star contacted Bryan Health, which owns the Crete medical center, a spokesman looked into it.
“What happened was a mistake,” said Edgar Bumanis. “We’ve met with the employee and apologized to him.”
Cody Meredith should not have parked where he did, Bumanis said. But hospital employees should have simply told him to move his pickup to the parking lot, he said.
“The initial people that came across it were not sure what was going on,” he said. “Then it became a question of the flag, and what is this recognizing?”
Kristin Meredith received an apology, too, she said. It wasn’t enough.
“They didn’t just upset me and Cody, they upset so many other people. I’ve gotten contacted from quite a few people who are very upset.”
She was also told she could return the pickup and flag to the hospital. But by then, there was no point. Her husband’s shift was almost over.