COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A veteran's widow is upset after an American flag she put on her husband's grave was removed from his marker on Aug. 31.
Joanne Reams said her husband Phillip Reams served in the Navy. He passed away from illness in 2011, and the family buried him in Parkhill Cemetery.
"My mother was buried at Parkhill Cemetery in the 70's, my father was buried there in the 90's and my husband was buried there about three years ago," Reams said. "I have a single plot left for me there as well."
Reams was angry the 12x18 inch American flag she hung next to her husband's marker on a shepherd's hook was taken away on Sunday.
"I put this flag up a few days before the Fourth of July this year," Reams said. "My husband requested a flag be put on his grave and I want to fulfill that for him. When I visited his grave about three weeks ago, the flag was still there. When I went back this past weekend, it was gone. The workers told me the flag didn't meet the cemetery's requirement. I'm just upset that an American flag had to be taken down."
Warren Cauthen, the general manger of Parkhill Cemetery told News Leader 9 each cemetery has its own set of rules and regulations the clients must follow. Cauthen said flags and flowers must fit inside a vase that meets the cemetery's requirements. Items and statues must fit onto the marker.
"Shepherd's hooks, big flags and monuments can be hazardous to our workers, other families and visitors, so we remove most of these items when we spot them," Cauthen said. "The park is about 130 acres, and we have tens of thousands of buried here. Sometimes if the monuments and other items are too big, families of the neighboring graves will complain to us that the items are crossing over to their space."
Cauthen said there are many families who are happy with the cemetery's regulation.
"Some people thank us because they don't have to find other people's items or flowers on their markers and grave," Cauthen said. "We don't throw any unauthorized items away. We taken them into our office and return them back to the owners."
Parkhill Cemetery has an annual cleaning routine that takes about two to three months to finish since the park is huge.
"We have our workers mowing the lawn, cutting weeds and removing trash six days a week," Cauthen said. "This year's big clean up started on July 1 but it won't end until late September or early October because of the rain we had."
All Parkhill Cemetery clients receive a handbook of rules and regulations. The book states that the Cemetery can remove flowers and other items placed on interment spaces if they are unauthorized. For example, no boxes, shells, toys, glassware or other items that may be dangerous or offensive should be placed within the cemetery.
"I understand the rules," Reams told News Leader 9. "But the vase the cemetery sells is about $500. That's too much and I can't afford to buy it. I'm just annoyed that the American flag I put up had to be taken down. I know what the cemetery is saying, but I can't purchase the bronze vase the cemetery requires."
Reams said she is talking to other people and looking into different options to help fulfill her husband's wish.
"I feel adamant about the flag itself," Reams said. "I have a marker that's been paid by the government. I would have to buy a piece of granite as well as the bronze vase and it would be about $500. I don't have that kind of money."