Governor changes flag policy after soldier's request - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Governor changes flag policy after soldier's request

Army Sgt. 1st Class Howard J. Blake Jr. Army Sgt. 1st Class Howard J. Blake Jr.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Howard J. Blake Jr. Army Sgt. 1st Class Howard J. Blake Jr.
(Source: WBRC) (Source: WBRC)

By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

MONTGOMERY, AL (WTVM) - A soldier from Alabama stationed in Afghanistan has Governor Robert Bentley changing his policies about the Alabama state flag.

Far from home, fighting for our freedom, Army Sgt. 1st class Howard Blake Jr. asked Governor Robert Bentley's office for an Alabama state flag to fly over his camp in Afghanistan.

"They wrote back saying they did not do that. I need to buy my own flag.  That kind of upset me.  She wrote back saying it was not their policy to send flags to anybody," explained Blake over the phone from Afghanistan.

Bentley's press secretary said that the governor's office gets 50 to 100 requests per month for state flags and returned Blake's email message with a "no," saying they could not afford it.

Wednesday, Bentley recanted his statement and said he sent a flag and is changing the state flag policy so that any Alabama service member serving in a combat zone can receive the red and white.

Governor Robert Bentley's office aides released the following statement Wednesday morning regarding a change in the state's flag policy:

"When Governor Bentley first learned SFC Howard Blake's request had been denied, he ordered that an Alabama state flag be sent to him immediately. Governor Bentley also ordered a change in the policy concerning the issuing of state flags," said Rebekah Mason. "From this point forward, the Governor's Office will provide a state flag at the request of any Alabama service member serving in a combat zone.

Governor Robert Bentley also commented, "This is another example of a long-standing state policy that just makes no common sense. That is why I changed this policy, effective immediately. As a veteran, no one appreciates the sacrifices made by our men and women who serve in our military more than I do."

"The government is full of stupid policies, not only in the state government, but the federal government.  As governor when we come across those crazy policies, we change them.  This was a bad policy and it needed to be changed and we changed it," said Bentley.

Blake said, "Lots of us who are from Alabama sit around and talk about it and defend Alabama against the other guys. To have the flag to show how proud we are of the state is outstanding."

Sgt 1st Class Blake is from Phenix City and had lots of support close to home. 

Earl Hutchinson spent 22 years in the Navy.  We found him at the American Legion in Phenix City and he offered on the spot to send a flag to Sgt. Blake. "When it comes to being patriotic, I do get emotional. To have a young soldier request a flag from home and not be provided.  I think that really sucks," said Hutchinson.

Blake said Bentley emailed him about two hours ago and he said did not know anyone was requesting flags from his office.

So far, the soldier has received several offers from people who want to send flags. He says any extra flags he receives will be sent to other Alabama soldiers in the battalion and unit.

As for the long standing policy that Bentley says started all this, the Raycom News Network talked with former Governor Riley's officials and they say it simply is not true.  

[Read: Alabama governor's missteps angers public]

Copyright 2011 WTVM. All Rights Reserved.

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