Photos of worn American flags treated like garbage at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery  – heaped in piles on the ground and stuffed in bags for disposal – ignited outrage online, and forced state officials to take action.trashedflags

Stan Sniezyk told WPRI he noticed the neglected and worn flags next to a dumpster and in an open storage shed when he visited his father’s grave last weekend, and decided to snap pictures of the disgrace and post them to social media.

“It just broke my heart because everyone in this cemetery fought under that banner and every fiber of that flag is their blood, sweat and tears,” he said.

“My father fought under that banner,” Snyezyk told ABC 6. “And to see them like that is an absolute disgrace …”

Snyzyk posted the pictures to Facebook Sunday with a message: “So, this is what happens to the used American flags at the Rhode Island veterans cemetery that have been donated by family members of the deceased veterans.

“What a disgrace! Shame on you. Please share this post so that everyone knows what is taking place and how they show a lack of dignity and respect for our flag, and of all place … the RI veterans cemetery.”

The post generated nearly 7,000 shares by Wednesday, along with dozens of comments expressing outrage over the situation.

RI pile of flags“Disgraceful and disrespectful to all those that served,” Gerry Winn wrote.

Others vowed to inform the proper authorities about the flags. U.S. code calls for retired American flags to be disposed of in a dignified way, typically by burning, ABC 6 reports.

The online outrage caught the attention of Rhode Island’s new Veterans Affairs director Kasim Yarn, who told WPRI he responded to the cemetery and “was speechless when I saw.”

“Flags were not stored properly and prepared for proper disposal,” he said. “Flags were in bags, on the ground. The place was a mess, literally. Procedures were not being followed.”

Yarn said he plans to institute a policy to ensure flags are folded and stored properly until disposal, and will keep a close eye on the veterans cemetery to ensure the issue there is resolved.

“At a very minimum, I will go there weekly and walk around,” he said. “I will open up all those doors, every facility, to ensure things are being placed in a proper manner.”

The news site reports the cemetery secured a burn permit from the Exeter Fire Department and properly burned the trashed flags.