Statement from Director – VA Black Hills Health Care System
I have decided on behalf of VA Black Hills Health Care System, after discussions with interested parties and a review of VA policy, that we will rehang the two confederate flags which were taken down last week in respect for the concerns raised by some Veterans in our Hot Springs Residential Treatment Program.
The historic Freedom Shrine in the rotunda of the Hot Springs VA Medical Center is a reflection of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America. The two Confederate flags are part of an eight-flag hanging display. VA Black Hills Health Care System considers it an honor to celebrate and recognize the sacrifices of all Veterans through this Freedom Shrine, which has been hanging in our Rotunda since 1995. The items in the Shrine were purchased and installed through the generosity of the Rapid City Exchange Club.
In the Civil War's aftermath, the American orator, Robert Green Ingersoll, eloquently memorialized the 620,000 dead American soldiers who wore both the Union blue and the Confederate grey. His words speak for all who perished in America's name. They read:
"They died for liberty – they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free…
Earth may run red with other wars, but they are at peace. In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death."
More soldiers died during the Civil War than any other conflict in our country's history. In 1901 Arlington National Cemetery reinterred 482 soldiers and erected a monument to the fallen. A plaque on the monument reads:
Not for fame or reward
Not for place or for rank
Not lured by ambition
Or goaded by necessity
But in simple
Obedience to duty
As they understood it
These men suffered all
Dared all - and died
The original purpose of the VA's Hot Springs facility was for the care of Civil War Veterans. Out of respect for all of our nation's Veterans, from every battle in history, we will maintain the historic Freedom Shrine in its entirety.
Steve DiStasio, FACHE
VA BHHCS Director