The Franklin County Board of Supervisors recently notified Hardy resident Salvatore Monastra that the county has declined his request to fly the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag on county buildings. Chairman Cline Brubaker sent Monastra a letter on behalf of the board, thanking him for his service and letting him know they discussed his request with the county’s legal counsel.

“Upon review, we understand entertaining such a request may obligate the County to fly or display other flags in the future representing causes that may not align or properly represent our community,” the March 22 letter states. Monastra said he received the letter in May.

Brubaker elaborated by phone late last month, saying, “If we allow that one, then others are going to think it will be necessary to fly their flags … and there are others with merit, but we felt like the county didn’t want to start something that would be hard to stop.”

Brubaker said they did tell Monastra that the POW/MIA flag may be flown at the Franklin County Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Monastra, who first approached the board with the idea in July 2018, said he was upset by Franklin County’s decision. A native of New York, his efforts there led New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass legislation in 2014 stipulating that all New York localities must fly the POW/MIA flag if the flag is provided by a local veterans group.

“It tore me up, really,” Monastra said. “It broke my heart in two almost. This is the first time — the first time since I’ve been doing this — I’ve had someone refuse and they’re telling me it might offend somebody? [Veterans and service members] are the people holding up the American flag. These are the people giving their lives for this country … That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. What’s ‘other flags?’ This is America; the United States.”

This spring, Monastra approached both Bedford County and Roanoke County with the same proposal. He has not heard back from Roanoke, but Bedford supervisors agreed to fly the flag in 11 county locations. He approached the board March 25 and they voted in agreement April 8. The flags are now up.

A disabled Vietnam veteran, Monastra served from 1965-68 with the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Barney. Monastra is a lifelong member of many military groups, including the American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled Veteran of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Order of Trench Rats and the Tin Can Sailors.

The POW/MIA flag was designed in 1972 on behalf of the National League of POW/MIA Families. It’s the only flag aside from the U.S. flag to be flown over the White House.

The U.S. Dept. of Defense estimates, as of its most recent count, that more than 82,000 American veterans are still unaccounted for, including 72,408 from World War II; 7,729 from the Korean War; 1,589 from Vietnam and 117 from the Cold War.