A decorated U.S. Navy veteran says he was fired from his job in Tennessee for taking down a torn and weather-beaten American flag.
Rick Heilman, who served for 22 years, says he wanted to replace the flag outside the Yearwood Equipment Company in Fayetteville.
He said he brought it up to the store manager last Friday.
"I said, 'Hey, the flag is pretty torn up out front. Do we have another one to replace it?' And he pretty much bluntly told me no. I said, 'OK, can we take it down until we get a new one?' And he again repeated, 'No,'" Heilman told KLTV
"It grated on me all weekend, and I have served 22 years. I have a lot of friends who have fought and died for it," Heilman said.
“The right thing to do was take it down. And I should have taken it down on Friday,” he said.
So when he came in Tuesday morning, Heilman did just that.
"I went in first thing, and I took the flag down," Heilman said. "And then I folded it up properly the way it should be."
Although the manager bought a flag last weekend to replace the old one, he was still angry with Heilman.
“He said, 'You've not followed my instructions, and you've disrespected my authority and therefore you're fired,'" Heilman recalled.
Heilman says he doesn’t want his job back.
"You know if you give up your integrity, you never get it back," he told WAAY-TV.
He posted on Facebook to let his friends know Yearwood had let him go after the incident. Hundreds of veterans and soldiers reportedly went to the company’s page to stand up for Heilman. Yearwood’s Facebook page has since been deleted.