The Ashland County administrative building sits with a blue sky in the background and a U.S. flag and POW/MIA flag flying in the wind.
Ashland County commissioners passed a resolution making the flying of flags other than the U.S., state and county flags prohibited. Credit: Dillon Carr

ASHLAND — For the first time in years, the flagpole outside the Cottage Street county building will not fly the black POW/MIA flag underneath Old Glory. 

Ashland County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Thursday limiting flags flown on county flag poles to those “of the United States, the State of Ohio, and the Ashland County.”

“This is something that the board felt that we needed to put a policy in place, so that we don’t have anybody trying to fly a flag of any other nature,” said Mike Welch, president of the Ashland County Board of Commissioners. 

“And if you have a policy, you can enforce it,” he added. 

Commissioners said they have considered putting a policy like this in place for years. But commissioner Denny Bittle said there have been informal complaints recently regarding the flag. 

“We had some complaints of that flag flying there,” he said, declining to identify the entity or person behind the complaint.

A public records request seeking emailed or written complaints submitted to the Ashland County Board of Commissioners brought up no results. Bittle said the complaints have all happened informally over the phone or in person.

The move comes a little less than a month before National POW/MIA Recognition Day, to be observed nationally on Sept. 15. The day aims to honor those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.

The policy effectively restricts the flying of any flag on county-owned flagpoles except the U.S., Ohio and Ashland County flags.

“We would have to make a special exception if we flew any flag, whether that’s POW or whatever it is,” Bittle said.

History & facts of the POW/MIA flag

The National League of POW/MIA Families designed and developed the black flag in 1972. 

It reads, “You are not forgotten,” and depicts a man beneath a guard tower gazing down at a barbed-wire fence. It’s dedicated to prisoners of war and service members missing in action.

The league chose not to seek a trade mark or copyright in order to reach “the widest possible dissemination and use” of the flag. This means the use of the flag is not restricted legally. 

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency states more than 81,000 Americans are still missing conflicts dating back to World War II.

The National League of POW/MIA Families’ website states the flag, other than the nation’s flag, “is the only flag ever to fly over the White House, displayed since 1982.”

In 1998, congress passed a law requiring the flag to be flown six days each year. They are:

  • Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday of May)
  • Memorial Day (the last Monday of May)
  • Flag Day (June 14)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • National POW/MIA Recognition Day (the third Friday of September)
  • Veterans Day (Nov. 11)

A federal law passed in 2019 cemented the flag’s presence at prominent federal buildings and national war memorials. The law also requires every post office throughout the country to fly the “you are not forgotten” flag.

Some state capitols have adopted laws requiring the flag to be flown at state-owned buildings.

In 2001, the National League of POW/MIA Families passed a resolution that “strongly recommends that state and municipal entities fly the POW/MIA flag daily to demonstrate continuing commitment to the goal of the fullest possible accounting of all personnel not yet returned to American soil.”

Lead reporter for Ashland Source who happens to own more bikes than pairs of jeans. His coverage focuses on city and county government, and everything in between. He lives in Mansfield with his wife and...