SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Brett Byler is in the fight of his life. According to the family’s gofundme page, on February 16, 2020, Byler was discovered to have a 5.5cm brain tumor that had grown and crossed the midline of his brain.
The Escondido police officer, a former marine and father of three, now faces an uncertain future.
“My son has been sustained by the support and love of the community from the moment he was diagnosed,” said Brett’s father Jim Byler.
Two months ago, some Palomar Health ER staff designed a t-shirt to sell to support their growing medical bills.
“This t-shirt represented unified support in the community for Brett and his battle with cancer,” said Jim Byler. “Sadly, he’s been mischaracterized into something he was never meant to be.”
The shirt shows a flag with a red, blue and white stripe next to a family portrait of Byler with the words “no one fights alone”.
“All of a sudden there were complaints and then the email went out saying the jersey was basically banned and found to be offensive and racist,” Byler said.
The following is part of an email that was sent to emergency hospital staff:
“A number of staff, doctors, patients and visitors were offended by a shirt worn by various emergency personnel. The shirt has a flag inside out with a blue line running through it.
The local intention of this shirt was to demonstrate the support of a sick police officer in our community. There is no doubt that the local intention and purpose was to show our love and compassion for this officer…
The problem for those who have been offended by the shirt is one that has a basis in recent history: the concept of the thin blue line across the flag seems to have an origin which was the support of our incredible colleagues in the services of the police across the country. Then that representation of the flag turned into something very different, and it was adopted by groups that may have an agenda that has nothing to do with supporting our police officers, and which is actually extremely offensive to many people.
It is for this reason that a decision was made asking that the staff stop wearing this shirt to work as part of your official dress …“
Thin Blue Line USA claims this specific flag is a show of support for officers who risk their lives. However, some associate it with a movement formed against the issue of black lives and believe that it represents hatred.
The family say it is evident from their history and what they represent, that hate is not what the shirt represents. They plan to continue to fight so that their story and their voices are shared in Brett’s favor.
“We’re going to fight this and make sure people understand that people know this is a positive unifying message. Not just for my son who has cancer, but for all cancer patients, ”Byler said.
The hospital will encourage the sale of the shirt even if staff cannot wear it during their shift. You can support the Byler family or order a shirt by clicking here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/byler-family