Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday issued a directive effectively banning displays of the Confederate flag at U.S. military bases.
“With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation,” he said in a tweet announcing the move.
Just days ago, President Donald Trump called displays of the Confederate flag “freedom of speech.”
“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors. As Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a veteran of the Second World War, once wrote about the United States flag: “It is a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of good will for other peoples who share our aspirations.” We wear this flag on our sleeves; we honor it prominently on parade fields; we carry it into combat; and, we drape it over the coffins of those who have given their lives for our Nation,” Esper wrote in a memorandum titled “Public Display or Depiction of Flags in the Department of Defense.”
“We must always remain focused on what unifies us: our sworn oath to the Constitution and our shared duty to defend the Nation. I am committed to fielding the most powerful military force the world has known by strengthening the bonds of our most valuable resource – our people. That is why we honor the American flag, which is the principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display. The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols,” he said.
The memo says the guidance applies to “public displays or depictions of flags by Service members and civilian employees in all Department of Defense work places, common access areas, and public areas, including, but not limited to: Office buildings, facilities, naval vessels, aircraft, government vehicles, hangars, garages, ready rooms, conference rooms, individual offices, cubicles, storage rooms, tool and equipment rooms, workshops, break rooms, kitchens/galleys, recreational areas, commissaries, Navy and Marine Corps and Army and Air Force exchanges, and heads/latrines/restrooms – including property and buildings off installation leased by the Department; Sensitive compartmented information facilities and other secure facilities;Open-bay barracks, berthing areas, and common areas of barracks and bachelor quarters; School houses and training facilities; and All spaces or items in public or plain view, such as the outside areas of any Department of Defense buildings and government-operated or public-private venture housing (e.g., parking lots, yards, gazebos, or porches). “
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