A group of army veterans expressed their anger on March 14 at the failure of their local Veterans Administration hospital in Florida to display portraits of President Donald Trump and Veteran Affairs Secretary David Schulkin.
The group complained to Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida, who served in the U.S. Army, before taking matters into their own hands, WPEC reported.
The group of veterans and Mast arrived at the hospital in Riviera Beach on March 14 with the two portraits to be installed. Mast asked a VA employee to put them up and the incident was captured in a cellphone video.
"Proud of the fact that the local vet community got it done. We walked in there, we made it happen. It was nonconfrontational. It was nonpolitical. We just wanted to see it happen," Mast told WPEC.
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John Rourke, another veteran, complained about the delay.
"Two blank holes, it's been 60 something days now," he said. "The Veterans Administration has been asked about it a few times, the local VA hospital has and they haven't had any real reason other than they didn't have the picture, which is readily available."
"That's the person who would ultimately give the order for us to put our lives in danger and we believe that his picture should be displayed there proudly," he added.
But the actions of Mast and the veterans failed to resolve the controversy. Kenita Gordon, the public affairs officer for the hospital, stated that the move was "inappropriate" and the hospital later removed the portraits.
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"While we appreciate his visit, they were not obtained through official channels," Gordon added, according to the Palm Beach Post. "We couldn't authenticate them."
Rourke dismissed the VA's statement, saying the request to hang up the portraits had come from Mast.
"It doesn't get any more official than that," he said.
Rourke commented that the delay was a reflection of bigger problems at the VA. He said he and his fellow veterans often have to spend hours in waiting rooms before receiving treatment.
Mast, a double amputee who gets treatment at the hospital, agreed.
"Especially after so many veterans contacted me about this issue, it is disappointing to see resistance from the VA over hanging the portrait of both the commander in chief as well as the secretary of the VA," Mast added in a statement.
The story gained national attention March 15, when Fox News reported on it.
But Gordon denied the delay was unusual, saying it took three months to receive the portrait of newly inaugurated President Barack Obama eight years ago.
"This is not something that's specific to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center or to the VA," Gordon added.