4 years, 2 months ago
Greenville, South Carolina saw the arrival of a Marine who perished in Afghanistan, and Gaffney, S.C. was his ultimate resting place.
Only the faint sound of lightly marching feet could be heard as hundreds stood silent on the Greenville-Spartanburg International tarmac Wednesday while fully adorned Marines carried Lance Cpl. Chris Fowlkes’ flag-draped coffin.
The solemn arrival began an afternoon-long procession that ultimately wound through the streets of the 20-year-old Marine’s hometown of Gaffney, where businesses shut down and mourners lined the streets.
The homecoming came six days after the former Gaffney High School football player died in a military hospital in Germany from injuries sustained a week earlier in an explosion in the Helman province of Afghanistan.
Well-wishers waved flags, saluted and shed tears as an army of police cars escorted Fowlkes’ family along the 40-mile stretch from the airport to the town.
Lance Corporal Chris Fowlkes was a popular and well known young man in Gaffney, and a brave warrior who gave his life in the service of his country. It was seemingly a very heart-felt and patriotic funeral procession. But all was not well in Gaffney, S.C.
A South Carolina Bank of America branch is drawing criticism Thursday after an employee reportedly ordered the removal of American flags placed to honor a fallen Marine over fears that people would be offended.
The Palmetto Scoop received one eyewitness email claiming that the branch manager at Bank of America’s Gaffney branch at 1602 West Floyd Baker Blvd. “told a citizen who was preparing the route for a U.S. Marine killed in action in Afghanistan by placing small American flags along the roadway that the flags might upset some of her customers.”
Said the outraged tipster, “[The branch manager] took them down and made the citizen go in to get them if she didn’t want them thrown away.”
The flags were part of the funeral procession of Lance Corporal Christopher Fowlkes, 20, who died last week after an explosion in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
WSPA-TV has also received similar tips about the “flag flap.”
A teller at the branch confirmed to TPS that the branch manager had been there around the time of the incident but had left for the day.
Bank of America released a statement apologizing for the incident and celled it a misunderstanding.
“We want to ensure the community knows how deeply proud we are of the men and women who have sacrificed so much in service to our country,” the statement said. “The bank does fly the American Flag at our locations throughout the country and flags were displayed in front of our banking center in Gaffney the evening prior to our dedicated Marine returning home.”
UPDATE: WCBD in Charleston reports that Bank of America said the incident was a “miscommunication in corporate policy.” That raises the question, which policy would require employees to remove American flags that are part of a funeral procession for a fallen Marine?
One commenter says “You Lie.” The branch in Lexington [Main Street, Lexington, South Carolina, United States of America] refuses to fly the flag the tellers tell me they have on site. The flag pole has been naked for over 2 years now. It is a disgrace, and a poke in the eye.”
So should BofA rename their corporation to bank of Russia? Is it Bank of America, or is it not? With whose offense were they worried? Really. Who, exactly, would have come into the bank and demanded that an American flag be removed for a Marine who perished in Afghanistan? And why would Bank of AMERICA have cared?
What corporate policy was in effect? Was this a branch-specific issue, or is there a corporate policy that forbids the displaying of American flags for the fear of causing offense? Who was responsible for removing the flags? Has corporate policy been changed? If so, why was the policy in effect? If not, what is the justification for the policy? Will Bank of AMERICA issue a formal apology to the Fowlkes family first and then to AMERICA?
There are many unanswered questions concerning this ugly incident. I feel that it’s necessary for a BofA official to formally comment on this article to enlighten my readers.
In the mean time, my most sincere condolences goes out to the Fowlkes family. God be with you through this most difficult time.