Following an act of vandalism last month, all the flags at Uniontown’s Five Corners are waving proudly again, thanks to a generous donation.
The location, officially known as the George C. Marshall Plaza, was the site where vandals cut the ropes and stole 17 flags on June 19.
Each flag represented the 17 nations that were part of The Marshall Plan for European Recovery following World War II, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
The American and Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) flags were left untouched.
Last week, Bartholomew John Jones, 45, of Uniontown, was arrested after he told Uniontown City Police that he stole and destroyed the foreign flags representing the allied nations of World War II because he was upset they were being flown on U.S. soil. He is awaiting a preliminary hearing.
Uniontown Mayor Bill Gerke said the vandalism was very disappointing and struck at the heart of one of the city’s beautiful, historic tributes.
Since the news of the stolen flags got out, Gerke said the city has experienced an outpouring of concern from citizens, businesses and organizations to help replace the flags.
One of those individuals and businesses was Cathy Fligger, executive assistant with Silvis Group.
Fligger contacted the city on behalf of Silvis President Jacob H. Silvis IV; Silvis General Manager Chris Boucher and Eric Nonneberg, director of sales and product development for Online Stores LLC, a vendor of Silvis, about replacing the flags.
Jacob Silvis said he learned of the vandalism from the news and, after taking his wife’s advice and sleeping on it, presented the donation idea to his team before contacting their vendor, Online Stores, to talk about a partnership.
Silvis and Online Stores donated a full set of replacement flags as well as new U.S. and POW/MIA flags, to enable the existing flags to be retired. New ropes for all that were severed during the theft were also provided.
“We all agreed that we have the ability to make a difference where it was much needed,” Jacob Silvis said. “We have an office in the Uniontown area and we want to make sure that we are supporting the community that we work and live in.”
“It just seemed like the perfect time to do the right thing and help out a local community that isn’t far from our corporate office in New Stanton, Pennsylvania,” Nonneberg said of his company that owns and operates the largest online supplier of flags and flagpoles in the country. “We work with thousands of VFWs, American Legions and all types of veterans’ groups across the country, so this was a no-brainer when it came to helping a community in our own backyard.”
Fayette County Veteran Affairs Director Brian Bensen said replacing the flags shows the resilience and respect the community has for the memorial.
“It’s also a reminder to the county that we care about our veterans, their memorials and their sacrifice for us and our way of life,” Bensen said. “We put aside our differences and joined a united front – the same way Fayette County did when our memorial was damaged. We came together.”
City of Uniontown officials, along with the Fayette County Veterans Affairs Office, Uniontown’s Rolling Thunder Chapter 5 and other veterans came together Thursday afternoon for a flag replacement ceremony at the plaza, sponsored by the Silvis Group Inc. and Online Stores.
“Thank you, Silvis Group and Online Stores, for your thoughtfulness and generosity in helping Uniontown restore the flags to Marshall Plaza,” Gerke said, adding that every gray cloud has a silver lining. “Silvis Group and Online Stores are the silver lining to this unfortunate occurrence.”
The donations that came pouring in from concerned citizens countywide will be used to create a fund exclusively for the city’s future flag replacement purchases, helping to defer a nearly $2,000 annual cost to the city.
“The plaza denotes a very important piece of United States history that our city played a large role in,” Gerke said, adding that one of the first things people see when entering Uniontown from the west is the flag display. “This symbol of history needs to be honored for generations.”