Firefighters Suspended for Patriotic Stickers Can Return to Work: Chief

"I'm floored that he would even consider this two days before 9/11," said firefighter Dan McDowell

A group of firefighters who were suspended for refusing to remove patriotic stickers from their helmets and lockers can return to work and can keep their American flag stickers posted, Maywood Fire Chief Craig Bronaugh said Wednesday.

"I have made the decision to put a department-issued flag on every locker in the firefighters' locker room," Bronaugh said. "I want everyone to be clear that there was never an issue of disposing of the flag."

Other stickers beyond the flags will be reviewed, Bronaugh said.

Four suburban Chicago firefighters claimed they were ordered to go home Tuesday for refusing to remove stickers of American flags after Bronaugh implemented a ban on all stickers.

"I'm floored that he would even consider this two days before 9/11," said firefighter Dan McDowell. "It's ridiculous."

Some said the stickers were sentimental.

"My dad served here for 26 years, an ex-Marine, ex-Vietnam vet," said Dave Flowers, Jr. "I took his locker."

Flowers said he was ordered to take a sticker off his locker or he would face discipline.

"We are the first African-American father and son on the Maywood Fire Department," Flowers said. "It has sentimental value."

Don Albanese agreed to remove several stickers, including a memorial flag from his helmet, but kept an American flag on his locker.

"I said, 'You know what? The one thing I won't do is I'm not going to remove the flag on my locker,'" he said. "No one sees it but us. We're all brothers here."

The firefighters said they were shocked to hear they couldn't keep their patriotic stickers.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a firefighter who doesn't have strong feelings about 9/11," McDowell said.

Evergito Herrera came to the U.S. from Cuba and said he's been with the department for 25 years. He said American pride is something he cherishes.

"I come from a country where I couldn't do that," he said. "The government would tell me what to do and that's why my parents took me out of Cuba."

The workers have since filed a hostile work environment grievance with their union.

According to Tim McDonald with the Service Employees International Union, local officials tried to resolve the issue Tuesday.

"We were thrown out of the station," McDonald said.

The firefighters said Wednesday's solution was only a partial resolution and added that they don't plan on removing other stickers anytime soon.

"This is just an unfortunate thing, but this is something that guys take to heart," McDowell said. "We thought this was important to stand up for."

"We will never waiver from what our initial stance was," Flowers said.

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