Gretna's removal of patriotic sign stirs controversy

GRETNA, Neb. (WOWT)-- A decorated veteran who died here at home is getting special recognition by the American Legion Post in Gretna. But that tribute caused controversy when city workers removed a patriotic sign from public property.

Flags honor dozens of deceased veterans on Memorial Day but for most of January, the commander of Gretna’s American Legion Post is recognizing a hero in the war on terror.

American Legion Post Commander Loren Foged read from the veteran’s obituary: “Afghanistan campaign medal, bronze star medal.”

Foged promised the widow of 42-year-old Nathan Horvatich that a flag bearing the name of the former Special Forces soldier would fly at a city park until the veteran is buried in Arlington National Cemetery later this month.

“Without the sign, it’s just a flag in the park,” Foged said.

But a Gretna city worker removed, and returned them to Foged on orders from the mayor.

"Why they didn’t embrace the city acknowledging this man’s service and sacrifice, I don’t understand that at all," Foged said.

Mayor Gretna Jim Timmerman, a veteran himself, says his removal order is not because of the message but placement of the signs.

“The right of way we have regulations that are against posting signs in that no matter what it is," Timmerman said.

But Wednesday afternoon, the flag with the veteran's name rose again flanked by the patriotic signs.

After 6 News called the mayor, the Legion Commander had a visit from representatives of City Hall, and it appears a compromise has been worked out.

Though in the park, the signs are of the public right of way and city officials are officially notified the tribute will stand only 10 more days.

“To be able to fulfill my promise to that veteran’s family," Foged said.

Gretna’s mayor says the city wasn’t told before placement of the signs and he received two citizen complaints that it’s unfair to allow them and not others the right of way.

The Legion Commander said he hopes for better communication with city hall when it comes to honoring veterans on public property.