Hartsville Mayor sorry for half-staff flag in Ronald Rouse death - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Mayor sorry for half-staff flag after student death

Funeral service for Ronald Rouse in Hartsville High School gym Funeral service for Ronald Rouse in Hartsville High School gym

HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) – The mayor who called for flags to be at half-staff in honor of a high school football player who suddenly collapsed on the playing field, is now apologizing for his actions.

Hartsville Mayor Mel Pennington released a memo Wednesday night expressing his sincere regret for inadvertently "dishonoring those that have served this country, and especially those that have given their life to preserving what our flag stands for."

During an Oct. 5 Friday night football game, 18-year-old Ronald Rouse, a senior lineman for the Hartsville High School Red Foxes, called a timeout and suddenly collapsed on the field. Athletic trainers and doctors were able to revive him, but after just a few steps, Rouse collapsed again. The teen was taken to the hospital, but was pronounced dead at 8:45 p.m. that night.

In the wake of Rouse's untimely death, Mayor Pennington called for flags to be lowered to "honor this young man, his team, and this community."

Although Wednesday's memo does not say specifically that any one person or organization challenged Pennington's call to lower the flags, the mayor does note that he confided in a close friend, Mr. Leroy Brown, who has served two United States Presidents in the Executive Flight Crew of what then was Army One.

Pennington writes that he "expressed to [Brown] the concern from members in our armed services, retirees, and veterans regarding [Pennington's] decision to lower the flag to half-[staff]."

The memo alludes to the fact that some members of the military, veterans, or retirees may have felt dishonored by Pennington's action as most members of our armed services don't regard anyone other than the President of the United States as having the authority to order the flags be lowered, despite any state law or local custom that may be in place.

Pennington explains that he contacted Governor Haley's office to inquire if he in fact was in a position to make the call for flags to be at half-staff, but states, "The fact is the state laws that govern my ability to lower the flag really don't matter if there are some that find great offense to its use outside of the executive branch of service."

In closing of the memo, Pennington inks his deep love for Hartsville and his sincere apology for any misstep in judgment by writing, in part:

"I'm certainly the first to say that I'm not perfect.  I have a great big heart that sometimes clouds my judgment.  I want you to know that I had the best of intentions in my actions.

I love this city.  I love the people of Hartsville, and I ask of your forgiveness."

[Read Mayor Pennington's complete memo]

The family of Ronald Rouse has not publicly commented on the mayor's memo.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

SIDEBAR: Remembering Ronald Rouse


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  • Did Mayor Mel Pennington make the right call in lowering the flag to half-staff to honor Ronald Rouse?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Yes, definitely the right call
    375 votes
    No, should be reserved for military personnel
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