Confederate flag flap

A Confederate flag flies outside Cedar Creek Mercantile in Middletown as a car passes along Valley Pike on June 23. Rich Cooley/Daily

The National Park Service is asking that items containing Confederate battle flags be removed from park bookstores and gift shops throughout the nation.

Locally, Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation — one of the partners of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park in Middletown — is retaining Confederate flag memorabilia in its headquarters gift shop, according to office manager Patrick Kehoe.

“We use it for interpretation and, obviously, we use it for retail attraction as well,” Kehoe said, adding that any decision to remove or keep the items moving forward will be up to its board of directors.

“If the board wishes to make a decision, they will let us know. We’re just continuing with business as usual at this time.”

Kehoe said that he expects the flag to be a topic of discussion at the board’s next meeting, which will come following the July 4 holiday weekend.

In a news release about the battle flag, National Park Service Chief Jonathan B. Jarvis stated the service strives to tell the “complete story of America.”

“All sales items in parks are evaluated based on educational value and their connection to the park. Any stand-alone depictions of Confederate flags have no place in park stores,” he stated.

Jarvis added that park superintendents and managers “will personally evaluate which sales items fit this description, have educational value and are appropriate for the site.”

Kehoe said the battlefield foundation has been receiving a lot of positive comments from the public.

“There seems to be acknowledgement of the tragedy that re-sparked this controversy, but they appreciate that we are trying to interpret the battlefield,” he said.

Virginia Military Institute, which operates New Market Battlefield Foundation and the Virginia Museum of the Civil War, is also considering the battle flag issue.

Aside from the New Market battlefield, VMI also runs the the Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington, Virginia, and its own Civil War museum.

VMI spokesman Col. Stewart MacInnis said they are looking at the inventory of Confederate flag items at all of those sites.

“It’s a fairly small inventory, so it’s not a major undertaking for us to look at that and consider each item and its contribution to the … mission of the museums,” MacInnis said.

He noted that the museums are not likely to remove or alter any artwork that may contain Confederate flags.

“We may sell an etching of Stonewall Jackson with the Confederate flag in the background,” MacInnis said. “If we feel that art is appropriate, we’re not going to censor it, either.”

Although the museum in New Market is not affiliated with the National Park Service, MacInnis indicated he thinks they will “follow suit with what the [park service] is doing.”

“We’re just taking our time and putting thought to it and trying to come up with the best possible answer here,” he said.

In the meantime, Kehoe said that he is waiting to see what the board’s decision is regarding any removal of Confederate flag memorabilia from the Middletown headquarters.

“It is a historical fact that it’s a piece of our history, and unfortunately, it’s been hijacked to represent some faction of hate,” Kehoe said, noting that he can see all sides of the situation.

“As far as Cedar Creek is concerned, it’s a no-win situation,” Kehoe said. “If we comply one factor, we lose. If we comply with the other factor, we lose.

“The only thing we can do is business as usual.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com