The father of an Illinois soldier who died in Iraq has reached an agreement with a cemetery that will allow him to fly the American flag atop the 10-foot flagpoles that bookend his son's memorial.
Army Cpl. Albert Bitton was killed by a roadside bomb in 2008. For the past two and a half years the poles have displayed an American flag and an MIA/POW flag, one on each side of Bitton's headstone. It's a monument that his father, Elie Bitton, visits three times a day.
Elie Bitton told Fox News it felt like he was "burning inside" when the cemetery's new manager, Ron Graeff, told him last week he would have to take down the flags and flowers around the grave because they violate the cemetery's rules.
The cemetery permits American, Israeli and Army Airborne flags to be displayed, but flagpoles may not be taller than 4 feet.
"My heart is broken," Bitton said Wednesday. "He was my only son."
He said he hadn't slept since the controversy began, and he had been contacted by supporters across the country.
Jennifer Brandino, a spokeswoman for Service Corporation International, the cemetery's parent company, confirmed on Wednesday that a deal had been reached.
"We were able to reach a compromise with the Bitton family," she said in a statement. "We fully support and respect those who have served in our country. Our request to the Bitton family to adhere to the cemetery rules was not meant to be disrespectful to Albert Bitton's service, but to create a serene environment for all families with a well-maintained environment for visitation and remembrance.”
The cemetery had told Bitton that he had until the end of Monday to remove the flags, but the city of Skokie arranged a meeting between Bitton and cemetery management, so Graeff said no action would be taken prior to that meeting.
Prior to the compromise, a Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman told MyFoxChicago.com that the situation was a shame, and the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs announced it was investigating the dispute.
Bitton told MyFoxChicago.com that he was willing to give his life for his son’s honor and was ready to put up a fight with the cemetery.