Commissioner angers veterans after reducing flagpole height

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on February 24, 2012 at 11:37 PM

Updated Saturday, Feb 25 at 12:29 PM

ROCKWALL — Passersby might never notice what happened to the flagpole in front of the veterans memorial at the Rockwall County Courthouse.

But for veterans, it's an insult.

"Absolutely. Positively," said Lt. Col. Tom Galli, U.S. Army, Ret. "I want to see justice done!"

The three flags outside the courthouse did not always fly at the same height of 35 feet.

The pole from which the Stars and Stripes flies used to be five feet higher.

But one weekend last month — without approval or anyone's knowledge — County Commissioner Jerry Wimpee got a company to cut five feet off the U.S. flagpole, reducing it to the same height as the Texas and POW flags.

Galli said Wimpee's actions desecrated the flag he defended and others died for.

"It makes my blood boil," Galli said. "It's as if someone came out here with a can of spray paint and sprayed it all over the wall."

Commissioner Wimpee decided against an on-camera interview with News 8, but he stressed that the flags are not a feature of the memorial, but rather they belong to the courthouse.

Plus, the display didn't comply with Texas law, he said, which mandates all flags fly at the same height — like at the library across the street.

"I want to be real clear:  This is not an issue about flag placement," said Rockwall County Judge Jerry Hogan. "This is an issue about an individual without any authority coming over here and destroying one of the flagpoles."

The U.S. flag always stood higher in the original design. Hogan said commissioners — including Wimpee — approved it unanimously.

But Wimpee now wants the county to pay $760 for trimming the pole's height.

Veterans call him a vandal and demand that not only does he get charged, but that the county returns the American flag to its original height.

The county sheriff told News 8 that he called in the Texas Rangers to see if Wimpee committed a crime. Hogan said the county is waiting on that investigation to conclude before deciding what to do next.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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