Veterans riled by flag rule
Article Courtesy of St. Petersburg Times
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
June 21, 2002 

When a condo association tells residents they cannot fly armed services flags, they seek the help of state Rep. Mike Fasano.

George Fisher, 70, has flown his red Marine Corps flag
with the American flag outside his Heritage Lakes Estates
condo several times a year for the past three years and
plans to do so on July 4.
NEW PORT RICHEY -- George Fisher wears two hearing aids, thanks to mortars and howitzer cannons being fired around him 50 years ago. As a U.S. Marine during the Korean War, he worked in the casualty unit, where they brought him bodies so that he could remove personal effects to send to the morgue. 
"One of my hometown schoolmates ... was killed in action and I handled his body," the 70-year-old veteran remembered.

To commemorate his sacrifice -- 12 years in the Marine Corps between active and reserve duty and four years in the Navy reserve -- Fisher has been flying his red Marine Corps flag with the American flag outside his Heritage Lakes Estates condominium several times a year for the past three years. 

But recently, his neighborhood condo association, the Three Westminster Condominium Association, told him to stop. 

In a letter sent to Fisher, his wife and their two dozen neighbors in late May, association president Grace Macchia asked all condo owners to stop flying anything but the American flag. 

"He couldn't sleep," Fisher's wife, Pat, said of his reaction the night they read the letter. 

Fisher is proud of his service, hanging his medals on his walls and propping up Marine figurines on his furniture. The former gunnery sergeant raises the red Marine Corps flag several times a year on special military occasions such as Veterans Day and Flag Day. 

"I just don't understand why (the association president) would want veterans to stop flying their flag," he said. "Why would you do that now, especially after Sept. 11?" 

The Fishers' neighbors, many of them war veterans or widows of veterans, shared in the outrage. About 22 neighbors along the block of gray-shingled homes with brick-lined garages signed a petition in protest of the letter. They've approached Republican state Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey. Fasano, who is running for the state Senate, lives in a different part of Heritage Lakes. 

In April, Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill allowing homeowners to fly the American flag in a reasonable, respectful manner and to sue their homeowners association if the group forbids it. Fasano said Thursday that if he was elected to the Senate, he would file an amendment to that bill that would include flags of the U.S. armed services. 

One of Fisher's neighbors is Lyle Porter, 77. Porter, an Army veteran of World War II, showed a reporter his Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars on Thursday. Porter landed at the Normandy invasion in France, was hit in the back with shrapnel and was taken prisoner. He and five other soldiers overpowered their three German captors. But the move was costly. 

"Two out of six of us got shot (and killed)," Porter said. 

To him, the association's letter banning the flying of service flags is an insult. 

"It makes you sick," Porter said. "We should have that right. If it wasn't for veterans, where would this country be now?" 

Macchia, the Westminster condo association president, could not be reached for comment Thursday. 

But her letter dated May 17 states, "There is nothing in the Documents of our Association that discusses the privilege of displaying flags on Three Westminster elements." 

She points out that Florida law allows the display of a removable U.S. flag regardless of declaration rules. 

"Therefore, I am requesting all unit owners of Three Westminster to refrain from displaying any flag other than the United States flag," the letter states. "This notice could be perceived by some that I am being disrespectful of our Armed Forces. ... On the other hand, there might be some unit owners who would see that I am acting as a fiduciary in seeing that all unit owners are treated equally under the Bylaws of the Declaration. It would not be meeting the standards of a fiduciary if some unit owners were given a privilege that is not accorded to all the other unit owners, no matter how worthy." 

Fisher said the letter will not stop him on July 4th. He's going to raise the Marine Corps flag. 

"Once a Marine, always a Marine," Pat Fisher said of her husband. 

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