Food Lion Changes Policies After Veteran Quits Over Ban On American Flag Face Mask

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An Air Force veteran’s story has gone viral after quitting his job at a local chain grocery store “on principle” when he was asked not to wear a face-covering printed with the American flag.

69-year-old Gary Dean worked at the Food Lion in Havelock, North Carolina, which ABC 6 describes as “a military town.”

“It’s the home of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the world’s largest Marine Corps air station, and it’s located about 40 miles from Camp Lejeune,” the outlet reports, which multiplied Dean’s shock when he was asked last week to report to work with a face covering or mask that did not have such apparently offensive imagery printed on it.

“Apparently corporate came down and said ‘Somebody was offended by the image of the American flag on the face covering,'” Dean told the outlet.

Dean said he had been wearing his patriotic face covering for months without a single complaint from customers or management. When the day finally came that he was told to take it off, Dean explained that he simply couldn’t tolerate the rule.

“As a veteran, my dad being a World War II hero, my best friend killed in Vietnam, out of respect for them I can’t just say no, I’ll take my flag and put it in my pocket,” Dean declared. “I had to quit, out of principle.”

At the time, another ABC affiliate sought comment from Food Lion regarding the strange policy Dean had violated. The grocer said that while it respects the American flag, its policy “prohibits associates from wearing clothing with writing, insignia, or symbols.”

Food Lion’s full statement reads:

At Food Lion, we have great respect for the American flag. Like many other organizations, we also have policies that guide the attire and conduct of associates in the workplace. As part of our effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the well-being of our associates and customers, we’ve required associates to either wear reusable face masks provided by Food Lion or choose to wear a different face covering while working. However, all face coverings must adhere to standards set by the company and communicated to each of our more than 77,000 associates. The policy prohibits associates from wearing clothing with writing, insignia or symbols. The dress code is meant to ensure a consistent and professional representation of our associates inside of our stores.

Less than a week after Dean’s story hit national headlines, however, Food Lion “listened to [their] employees and customers” and changed the policy against insignia and symbols to make room for the American flag.

Food Lion announced the policy clarification in a Saturday tweet:

As of this writing, Dean has not announced whether or not he will be returning to work at Food Lion in light of its updated policy.

Before the policy update, Dean said he wasn’t angry with the store’s managers, but that he felt the policy they were made to enforce disrespected the flag he cherishes.

“I love this country,” he said. “I love that my dad went off and fought for my country, nearly got killed for this country but came back and raised a family. I love everything about that flag. So, yeah, that is my priority.”

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