Confederate flag removed at Hot Springs VA Center as officials consider next move

2013-04-18T05:30:00Z Confederate flag removed at Hot Springs VA Center as officials consider next moveKevin Woster Journal staff Rapid City Journal
April 18, 2013 5:30 am  • 

A Confederate flag in a historical display at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Hot Springs has been removed following complaints from several veterans there for treatment.

Steve DiStasio, director of the VA Black Hills Health Care System, said Wednesday he plans to meet with the veterans next week as he and other officials decide what to do with the flag.

"Some veterans want the flag removed," he said Wednesday. "What we realize here is that there are people who have strong opinions on both sides of issues."

The Journal received a call Wednesday from a man who said he was concerned about the flag's removal. When contacted, DiStasio said the full-size Confederate flag was part of a Shrine to Democracy display in the three-story domed rotunda of the VA medical center in Hot Springs.

The flag has been part of the display for decades, he said.

But several veterans who are in the Hot Springs center for treatment came to VA officials on Tuesday demanding the flag be taken down. DiStasio said he understands the flag is offensive to some, despite its historical significance.

DiStasio thought the flag was still up Wednesday morning. But VA public information officer Jill Broecher said later that it had been taken down, at least for now.

DiStasio said he is now considering his next step.

"I don't know what's going to happen. This evolved very quickly yesterday afternoon," he said. "I've asked some of our folks to get some research on what is the position on flags and other memorabilia that are part of historical presentations."

Along with the full-size flag, there is another display with a smaller Confederate flag, DiStasio said. That, too, was removed for now and will be part of the discussion on appropriateness.

"I don't have a hard time frame for making a decision," he said. "We're talking with our staff about short-term, long-term actions. I think it will take a little bit to work through that."

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or kevin.woster@rapidcityjournal.com

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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