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Manchester WWII Vet Wants More Flags on Main Street

World War II veteran Bernie Brennan says he is determined to continue his protest outside Town Hall until more American flags are raised on Main Street or his health goes out.

The saying goes that you can't fight city hall. But don't tell that to Bernie Brennan – because that's precisely what he's trying to do. 

Brennan, 86, may be familiar to many in town over the last few weeks - he's the guy who's been standing outside of Town Hall with a sandwich board around his neck that reads: "INSTALL AMERICAN FLAGS NORTH ON MAIN STREET." 

A Navy veteran who served during World War II, Brennan is adamant that he wants to see more flags on Main Street in downtown Manchester. So adamant, in fact, that he offered to purchase and donate 40 flags himself. 

When the Board of Directors discussed Brennan's plan recently, they agreed to a  compromise that would see 20 additional flags installed on a portion of Main Street. Some directors noted the difficulty of installing the additional flags, since some of them would have to be hung on utility posts, and removing them in the winter or in the event of inclement weather, while others stated that they did not believe the American flag was intended to serve as a decoration. 

"Does Arlington National Cemetery have too many flags?" Brennan said when asked his opinion on whether or not the flags could be construed as a decoration. 
But Brennan withdrew his offer after learning of the board's decision - he wants all 40 flags hung on Main Street or nothing. 

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"He's very focused on adding more flags," said General Manager Scott Shanley, who added that Brennan has sent numerous communications to the town and the Board of Directors since they last discussed the issue. 

For about the past two weeks, come rain or shine, Brennan has chosen to stand outside Town Hall holding his sign asking for more flags. Motorists honk or wave as they pass him by, many likely oblivious to his cause. 

But Brennan could care less. He wants his flags. 

"I think it's American to support patriotism," he told Patch this week, adding that he intended to continue his protest until the flags were installed or "until my health goes out." 

As of Wednesday, Brennan's protest had doubled in size, as Rusty Burnett, 66, joined him on Center Street holding his own sign asking for more flags. 

Burnett said he has known Brennan for about 10 years, and when he heard about his protest, "I figured I'd come down here and show him some support." 

When asked why, Burnett said he wouldn't mind seeing more flags on Main Street as well.

Jon Crickmore October 05, 2012 at 10:03 AM
The support for our service men and woman has always fallen short. The federal state and local governments will give food and housing to anyone and everyone regardless if they really need it or not. Drive down Starkweather street in Manchester. The street is lined with American flags. I believe they are installed and taken down by a resident. If the board of directors is worried about installing and taking them down I will do it for free. I do appreciate the directors agreeing to some additional flags but it should not take a veteran standing in the rain to get their attention. If our town had more people like Mr Brennan it would be a much better place to live. I hope the city of village charm makes a come back. More people need to fight city hall. Remember we pay their salaries. We are in charge. Thank you Mr Brennan for your devotion to our country.
Sherry Covill October 05, 2012 at 03:59 PM
When anything is used to excess it runs the risk of becoming commonplace. The American flag has become a form of decoration for many athletes and others who think nothing of wrapping themselves in the flag to celebrate a personal victory. This is inappropriate use of the flag, but because it is done quite frequently, it has become acceptable treatment in the eyes of many. I fear that running dozens of American flags up the street will only serve the same purpose. A few flags, raised on flagpoles and appropriately lit, help to keep it special. The overuse of the flag, frankly, as decoration running up and down the street becomes trite. It begins to feel like a forced patriotism, and that is never a good thing. Since September, 2001 it has become popular to assume that someone is not a true patriot if they are not constantly waving the American flag and singing "God Bless America" at every baseball game. This is not true, and should not be used as a guidepost for anyone's love of country or respect of our military. The downtown area of Manchester is predominantly retail, and should be decorated in such a manner. Our flag should be displayed in select areas of town to protect its dignity and sense of being something special to us.
Jerry O'Connor October 05, 2012 at 04:57 PM
If Mr. Brennan went door-to-door on North Main Street I’m sure he’d find many residents and business owners who would gladly accept an American flag and would hang it proudly and ensure that its display was properly maintained. It’s a shame, though, that so many people confuse patriotism and concern for our service men and women with flag waving. The American flag is an important symbol. But hanging or waving it doesn’t make you a true patriot any more than holding a cross makes you a true Christian. I’m a Viet Nam era vet and I take the time to support national legislation and local efforts to give preferential treatment to veterans and active duty military personnel seeking educational and employment opportunities, and in housing and healthcare. I’d prefer to see Mr. Brennan’s time – and the Town’s resources – spent on similar efforts. The current Town effort in support of the Purple Heart Homes program that provides housing for our wounded warriors is a good example. Our local officials have been active in spreading the word about this effort – part of a national program – and how they plan to renovate a foreclosed property for use by a partially disabled Afghanistan vet from here in Manchester. They’ve arranged a fund-raising auction to be held at MCC on the morning of Saturday, October 13. (more – see next comment!)
Jerry O'Connor October 05, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I’m planning on securing a package of materials to donate to the auction and have offered my services to entertain attendees. Perhaps Mr. Brennan could curtail his Town Hall picketing for a few days and make an effort to secure donations for this event (perhaps offer a flag to residents or businesses that provide a suitable donation?) and spread the word about this worthwhile effort. Anyone wishing to donate cash or an auction item can contact Barbara Mozzer (a former Town employee) by email (Mozzerb@manchesterct.gov) or 860-818-7368. Residents or businesses who would like to learn more about the Purple Heart Homes program and how they might be able to make a donation or volunteer their time can contact the program’s regional director, Vicki Thomas at 203-984-2138.
Jain Hayles October 05, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Mr. O'Connor, Would you mind if I posted the information about the Purple Heart Homes Program and the fund-raising event on my Facebook page? I was completely unaware of this program, and would like to spread the word.
Jerry O'Connor October 05, 2012 at 06:35 PM
I'm not an official with the program, Jain, but my wife met with Vicki Thomas and I know they're looking to get the word out ASAP since this is a bit of a last-minute event. So sure, spread the word if you can!
Jon Crickmore October 11, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Mrs Covill, The article says nothing about idiots wrapped in flags running up and down the street. Yes there are many people that use our flag in an inappropriate way. Mr Brennan is asking that flags be placed North on main street. 1 flag or 1 million flags will never be decorations. Shame on those people who now make our flag about politics. Thanks again Mr Brennan. The world needs more people like you.
Tanner December 11, 2012 at 07:21 PM
The phone number you have above is incorrect. That is my phone number and I have been receiving numerous phone calls.

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