Atlanta Progressive News (February 20, 2006)
(APN) ATLANTA--A US soldier stationed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) says he is being retaliated against for complaining when his superiors failed to fly the American Flag at half-mast in remembrance of civil rights leader Mrs. Coretta Scott King, ignoring a Presidential Executive Order, according to emails and testimony obtained exclusively by Atlanta Progressive News.
Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) John M. Estes, in The United States Air Force Reserves with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, claims he has received undue harsh treatment, including being yelled at, and has been forced to end his deployment sooner than planned, as a result of his complaint.
"I was [originally] told that I would be sent home on March 7, 2006, not the end of February 2006. Nothing should happen to me once I return to the USA. Yes, this is a part retaliation for speaking out about the American flag not being lowered in Honor Of Mrs. King. They did not like what I wrote in email to them. They feel I am outspoken and they need to get me out of here before this conduct rubs off on others. I had the courage to speak out on something that was right and most Americans would agree," Estes wrote [grammar edited for clarity in all email citations].
SSgt. Estes has recently been stationed in the Middle East, but is originally from the Atlanta, Georgia, area, and says his family is a good friend of the King Family. US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinneys (D-GA) Office has been following the issue since being notified right away what was going on regarding their constituent.
SSgt Estes was troubled when he first noticed that his command post failed to fly the flag at half mast at the base of the 380th on the evening of February 7, 2006.
"The entire base fail [sic] to give honor and respect to Mrs. Coretta Scott King by placing the American flag at half staff. Two days later there is no one talking about the wrong that was given to... Mrs. Coretta Scott King at the 380th... It's hard to hold back the tears trying not to believe in the year 2006 that things like this [are] still going on... unequal treatment and disregard," Estes wrote in an email to his unit on February 9, 2006.
"I was taught very earlier in my military career to give honor and respect to others and so was everyone else... How did the leadership allow this to happen? Mrs. Coretta Scott King was for the advancement of people and doing what was right for the entire human race. She deserves better treatment
from the members of the 380th..." Estes wrote.
SSgt. Estes immediately went to his superior, TSgt Ulyssia A. Guerrier Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Operations Night Supervisor, on the night of the 7th.
Guerrier failed to take immediate action, instead referring him to file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Office, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Estes wrote Capt. Shoffstall of Equal Opportunity at 3am on February 8, 2006. "President Bush ordered on Tuesday February 7, 2006, all American flags every where to be lowered to half mast for the late Coretta Scott King and the flag at the 380th was not lowered. This is a big disappointment for all Americans serving in the 380th."
An email reply from Shoffstall appeared not to address the issue, stating that the base would have had to have permission from the UAE to fly their flag at half-mast. However, Estes wasnt talking about the UAE flag.