Four Chicago firefighters were sent home from work yesterday for refusing to remove American flag decals from their lockers. The firefighters removed all other stickers, as was ordered by their fire chief, but drew the line at the flags.
Dan McDowell, one of the firefighters sent home from the Maywood station, says the timing of the order couldn’t be worse.
"I'm floored that he would even consider this two days before 9/11," said McDowell. "It's ridiculous."
The station has never cared about decals on lockers or helmets in the past. Dave Flowers Jr., another firefighter who was sent home, says he has decades-old decals on his locker.
"My dad served here for 26 years, an ex-marine, ex-Vietnam vet," Flowers said. "I took his locker.”
Flowers was upset, but complied, when he was ordered to take off one of his father’s stickers.
"We are the first African-American father and son on the Maywood Fire Department," Flowers said. "It has sentimental value.”
He said being ordered to remove the flag decal was completely unnecessary.
"I said, 'You know what? The one thing I won't do is I'm not going to remove the flag on my locker,'" Flowers told NBC Chicago. "No one sees it but us. We're all brothers here."
The fire chief ordered all stickers and decals removed in order to ease recent racial tensions in the department. The four suspended firefighters, who come from various ethnic backgrounds, say no tensions exist.