EXETER, R.I. (KTRK) --Stan Sniezyk visits his father's grave every week at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery, but one day he noticed piles of torn and tattered American flags at the cemetery.
"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," Sniezyk told WPRI-TV.
Sniezyk saw two piles of flags: one by a dumpster and the other by an open storage shed. He took photos of the piles and posted the pictures online. His photos went viral, sparking outrage -- especially among veterans.
"I've been getting messages from California, Texas, Connecticut, Florida," said Sniezyk. "People are absolutely outraged at what they've done, how they've disgraced the American flag in a veterans cemetery of all places."
Kasim Yarn, Rhode Island's new director of Veterans Affairs, was one of the people who saw the photos online and said he went right to the cemetery.
"I was speechless when I saw," Yarn told WPRI-TV "Flags were not stowed properly and prepared for proper disposal. Flags were in bags, on the ground. The place was a mess, totally. Procedures weren't being followed."
Yarn said he has implemented updated policies to make sure in the future that flags are properly folded and stored, as well as a new inspection process at the cemetery.
U.S. Code stipulates that flags no longer fit for display should be disposed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. The flags in the photos were burned in a formal ceremony. However, Sniezyk still plans to keep a watchful eye on the cemetery.
"At very minimum, I will go there weekly and walk around," said Sniezyk. "I will open up all those doors, every facility, to ensure things are being placed in a proper manner."