PITTSBURG — The “God Bless America” sign, which used to reside on an exterior wall of the Pittsburg Post Office, is locked away in a safe.

Its message is not.

A wave of community protest against the removal of the banner, originally funded and installed by veterans working at the post office following Sept. 11, 2001, has the phrase showing up on buildings all over town Thursday, with momentum growing.

Removing the banner

On Wednesday, postal employees were directed to take down a banner, which originally was placed on the south wall by a group of military veterans who worked there in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The employees paid for the banner out of their own pockets, and displayed it as a symbol of their patriotism and unification.

On Tuesday, post office employees were directed that the banner was in violation of post office regulations and would have to come down, following a series of complaints by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.

Veterans, residents and others gathered Wednesday morning as maintenance employees followed orders to remove the banner, which was rolled up and placed in a safe within the post office.

Banner boom

Thursday morning, a very similar banner appeared on the fence next to local business Jayhawk Signs and Graphics, another at CDL Electric Company and social media marketing by Jake’s Fireworks promised more to come.

“We hung the banner in support of our troops and to commemorate the 9/11 attacks on America,” said Shea McLaughlin, with CDL Electric. “That banner has nothing to do with religious values or political correctness. It has everything to do with freedom of speech and the foundation that this country was built on.”

McLaughlin said that foundation is the God-given right to be free, along with free speech.

“Sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right,” McLaughlin continued. “In the day and age of political correctness someone has to be a leader and stand up for what they believe in.”

Father Martin Dickinson, an area priest and co-owner of Jayhawk Signs and Graphics, said requests from individuals asking to purchase signs have flooded in.

“My wife and I talked about it last night, and that we wanted something on our lot. We got right on it this morning,” Dickinson said. “The only way we can counteract this is to have private citizens put it on their private property.”

Dickinson said several 4-foot by 10-foot banners have been ordered, but the store also will offer them in three other sizes, all at discount pricing. Jayhawk Signs also will be selling yard signs and is giving away free vehicle stickers while supplies last.

Jake’s Fireworks also announced Thursday that on Friday the company will give away free 3-foot by 6-foot banners and yard signs to businesses and individuals from the Pittsburg area.

“We are doing this because, like many in our community, we were shocked to learn that the post office was forced to remove the “God Bless America” sign due to a far-away special interest group,” said Devon Krusich, director of digital marketing for Jake’s Fireworks. “Jake’s Fireworks wanted to give people in our community a way to let their voice be heard. If we cannot have the sign on our post office then we will have it on every other building in town.”

Signs will be available for pickup at 11 a.m. Friday at Jake’s Fireworks World Headquarters 1500 E. 27th Terrace in Pittsburg.

Showing support

Post office maintenance workers power washed the side of the building Thursday, helping minimize the discoloration between the main wall and the area where the banner had been. Area residents also showed up at the post office with sandwich boards and flags, earning cheers of support from passers-by.

“I believe that God blesses,” said the man with the sandwich board, who identified himself only as John and a member of Life Changers Church.

John said he was receiving plenty of support.

“Everybody goes by and honks or says, ‘Amen,’” he said. “One guy brought me a Braums’ hamburger and fries.”

Along the way, others joined him, including Ruth Southard, who said she lives in Lowell, but traveled to Pittsburg after hearing about the situation during a meeting at the Quaker Friends Church.

“I was at the prayer meeting last night and the preacher talked about the sign coming down,” said Southard, who was a captain in the Civil Air Patrol and showed up in uniform and carrying a flag.

Displaying the original

A couple businesses in the immediate vicinity of the post office have made offers to display the original banner, which is in poor shape after nearly 15 years on the building's south-facing exterior wall.

“I remember when it went up,” said Patrick Smith, who owns the next door Patrick C. Smith LLC law office. “I got choked up.”

Smith said he always enjoyed seeing the banner and has offered any support he can give, including displaying the banner on his own building and legal defense.

“I made the comment that if they put it back up, I’d be glad to defend them against any litigation,” Smith said. “As an alternative, if they couldn’t put it up, I made the comment that I’d be glad to put it up here.”

Midwest Minerals, located on the same block, also has offered display space.

“We certainly would be more than happy to display that sign on our building,” said John Clark, controller. “We’ve always promoted those values within our country and we’re more than happy to assist in any fashion we can. We were disappointed to see the post office had to remove that and are more than happy to help them. From an outpouring perspective, you can tell the atmosphere in this part of the country.”

— Sarah Gooding is a staff writer for The Morning Sun and can be reached at sgooding@morningsun.net