A client informed MRFF on October 24, 2017 that “the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute [AFEHRI] has put up a Christian religious exhibit in the form of a Christian flag “rescued” from the DMZ in Korea”. This display located at AFEHRI’s Enlisted Heritage Museum in the Gunter Annex at Maxwell-Gunter AFB near Montgomery, AL contained a blue flag bearing a white cross next to a mannequin in a U.S. Air Force uniform along with the following framed caption:
This Christian Flag is significant because it was rescued from the ruins of an American Chapel that ultimately found itself situated in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea. In 1960, a young A1C [Airman 1st Class] Luke Holcomb, was assigned to the post along the Demilitarized Zone. From his duty section he could see what remained of the chapel and was fascinated by the site of the U.S. and Christian flags leaning against the rear corner of the building. One night, he and three friends swam across the river separating them from the chapel, and at the risk of death, they liberated the flags. It was his wish that this flag be displayed in dedication of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen who risked their lives during the Korean Conflict.
After researching the claims made in this caption, MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein sent a letter on behalf of 21 USAF officer, enlisted, civilian and veteran clients at and/or associated with Maxwell-Gunter AFB to Lt. General Steven L. Kwast, Commander and President, USAF Air University demanding whoever is responsible for this overt violation of both research and educational standards as well as a clear desecration of the Establishment Clause’s principles to include those of AFI 1-1, needs to be immediately held accountable and punished accordingly. In his demand letter, Mikey noted the following key factual issues regarding this display:
-MRFF’s historical researchers could find no evidence that any “American chapel” was ever located in that vicinity in general and, more importantly, one that remained on the North Korean side of the river years after the Korean hostilities ended, especially with both an American and Christian religious flag allegedly quite visible.
-MRFF could find no evidence that Air Force enlisted members ever manned “post[s]” along the DMZ – this to our knowledge has always been done by members of the U.S. Army, their Korean Augmentation To the U.S. Army [KATUSA] counterparts, or South Korean Special Forces units – nor any other rationale for an AF A1C to be in that area of the DMZ in 1960 or any other time after the conflict ended in 1953. There have been AF enlisted members attached to the Army’s Camp Casey and Camp Red Cloud both of which however, are 20+ kilometers south of the DMZ and nowhere near the area at issue.
-MRFF could find absolutely NO evidence concerning the alleged “Christian” flag, which is depicted on their (AFEHRI) Facebook page. The flag displayed is not the “Christian Flag,” rather it is the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps, Christian Chapel flag. We point this out to you because we believe that “attention to detail” is always a basic concern when the stated mission of AFEHRI is to “…educate and motivate visitors by researching, preserving, and showcasing to the world our Air Force enlisted history, heritage, and their resulting contributions to air power.”
– If one of the two prongs of AFEHRI is professional research pertaining to Air Force history, and if they cannot research this particular matter to ensure its historical existence and accuracy, it casts a serious doubt upon EVERYTHING which the AFEHRI is supposed to stand for. Plain and simple, it is a classic “mission failure” which must be rectified immediately.
-Where did this “Christian flag” actually come from? And, where is the other flag – the U.S. flag mentioned – at? Why is it not part of this exhibit?
-Finally, it defies credibility to think that the North Koreans would leave a chapel with a U.S. flag and a Christian religious flag just sitting there for seven years, or that the so-called “three friends” who allegedly accompanied A1C Luke Holcomb have never been identified.
In specific regards to the issue of religious establishment by an element of the government, Mikey stated in the demand letter that:
MRFF believes that this “exhibit” is nothing more than a pretextual attempt to proselytize the Christian faith to the exclusion of any and all other faiths or no faith traditions and requests that you order an immediate formal investigation into this bizarre and most troubling matter. That particular “Christian” flag – an indoor flag at that – did not sit out fully exposed to the severe North Korean weather elements for seven years, while remaining in the pristine condition reflected in the photograph which AFEHRI so proudly splashed all over social media via Facebook merely a few days ago. With its “Christian” cross, if this story cannot be verified, the AFEHRI can “reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing” the Christian religion, in flagrant violation of both the Establishment Clause and AFI 1-1. The evil here is not only does this travesty appear to be a fake exhibit, but one which is used to illegally promote the dominance, exceptionalism and superiority of Christianity, the very thing that the Establishment Clause and AFI 1-1 incontrovertibly prohibit.
Within 17 hours of MRFF’s demand to Lt. General Kwast, MRFF was in receipt of the following statement from a representative of the ‘Enlisted Heritage Museum’:
I appreciate your questions regarding the exhibit. The artifact was donated to the Heritage Hall between 1986-1996, but was not properly accessioned into the museum inventory until 1996. Therefore, our documentation on the artifact is sparse and well before any of our current staff members were employed at the Heritage Hall. As a result of your inquiry and after looking at the framed wording, I concur that the dates and story seem inaccurate. We have removed the photo of the wording from the exhibit, as well as from our Facebook page. Our team will continue to research the story, the dates, and the donation process.
MRFF is awaiting word on whether the “Christian Flag” has also been removed or if anyone will be held accountable under AFI 1-1.