By Robert L. Rosebrock
LOS ANGELES – Fellow Americans, this Memorial Day weekend let us be grateful that the men and women who defended the American Flag and our nation’s freedom didn’t do it with the same shoddiness and disrespect that AAA Flag & Banner (AAA Flag) has done when it hangs American Flags outside the largest VA Healthcare System in the nation where Veterans are trying to heal from defending the American Flag, and next to the largest National Veterans Cemetery west of the Mississippi where 85,000 Military Veterans are buried, including 14 recipients of the Medal of Honor, all who proudly defended the American Flag.
Last year, the Old Veterans Guard initiated and facilitated the “Veterans Grand Old Flag Memorial” (Flag Memorial) with 100 American Flags on 50 lamp posts embracing the Los Angeles VA and National Veterans Home along Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards as a grand tribute to all Veterans throughout American history who served with honor to defend the American Flag.
Vietnam Veterans of America, Region 9, is the Presenting Sponsor of this patriotic memorial that represents a perpetual salute to all of America’s Military Veterans.
Big Money Cannot Afford the American Flag
This new Flag Memorial replaced a prior project that consisted of a three-way partnership between Veterans Park Conservancy (VPC), which is not a Veterans organization but a wealthy homeowner group, the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles VA Healthcare System.
Their project was abandoned because the threesome claimed they lacked the funds to continue the project, declaring on VPC’s website: “Although the cost is minimal, it has become prohibitive for either the government entities or the nonprofit VPC to replace these on a sustained basis.”
Think about it; the Los Angeles VA has a $750 million annual budget, Los Angeles County has a $10 billion annual budget, and VPC has billionaires and mega-millionaires in its membership, and together the threesome could not cobble together enough money to maintain the 100 Flag Memorial project.
Restoring the Flag Memorial
The Old Veterans Guard accepted responsibility and arranged a $12,000 grant from the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, to provide the necessary funding for the installation of the Grand Old Flag Memorial and a consequent Dedication Ceremony.
Upon receipt of the grant, AAA Flag was contracted and paid $11,200 for the 100 Flags, brackets and installation, including a $200 Permit Fee.
The Flag Memorial was installed on June 6, 2012, the 68th Anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day during World War II, giving special homage to the sacrifices of our World War II Veterans.
The Flag Memorial was dedicated on “Flag Day,” June 14, 2012, and it included distinguished guest speakers Rafer Johnson, America’s legendary Olympic Decathlon Champion who was team captain and American Flag bearer in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome , Ron Kovic, renown Disabled Marine Combat Veteran of the Vietnam War and author of the Academy Award–winning movie “Born on the Fourth of July,” and Carolina Winston-Barrie, Matriarch of the descendants of Arcadia B. de Baker who jointly donated the land to the National Veterans Home along with Senator John P. Jones in 1888.
Holding The American Flag Hostage
No more than six months after AAA Flag had installed the100 American Flags, the brackets they used could not withstand a typical windy day in West Los Angeles and subsequently a set of Flags were destroyed with one wrapped around the pole and the other falling to the ground and disappearing.
Upon notification to Michael St. Clair, General Manager of AAA Flag, he refused to remove or replace the disgraced Flags unless we paid an upfront fee of $350, which was never mentioned or included in the agreed contract.
In fact, prior to entering into the contract with AAA Flag, Mr. St. Clair assured me that wind was not a problem. Instead, he proclaimed that it was the sun, rain and smog that could propose a problem.
We reluctantly paid the $350 because we wanted to remove the Flag that was disgracefully wrapped around the pole as it was offensive and an insult to all who have defended the Flag. The removal fee was paid in part fropm the balance of the Metabolic Studio grant and David Bischoff, a decorated Vietnam War Combat Veteran and member of the Old Veterans Guard.
A short time later, more Flags became unattached from the unreliable brackets and were disgracefully wrapped around the poles. AAA removed them after concluding that it was their responsibility.
AAA Flag Runs, But They Can’t Hide
On April 10, Mr. St. Clair sent an e-mail stating: “we will no longer repair wind-blown banners for free as per president of the company’s statement.”
Craig Furst, AAA Flag & Banner president, sent an e-mail to his staff on April 10, purporting:
“It has come to our attention that we need to provide disclaimers for EVERY Pole Banner Program sold. The disclaimers will notify the client about any repairs from acts of god, permits notes, time to install/remove, and repair costs (if needed).”
Please alert your clients starting today… about these rules. AAA will need to charge for any pole banner repairs.
How about that … just make up the rules as you go along for your own convenience and personal benefit and to hell with your customer.
Mr. Furst has all the credentials of becoming a big-time politician or VA bureaucrat.
Nevertheless, in the business community where we all practice and participate, “disclaimers” are explained in advance and included at the time of the business transaction, not afterward.
Six days after Mr. Fursts infamous e-mail, four more American Flags became unattached from AAA’s cheap and shoddy brackets and they hung disgracefully twisted and wrapped around two lamp poles on Wilshire Boulevard adjacent to the VA’s Wadsworth Hospital.
It was the sole responsibility of AAA Flags to remove and replace these disgraced American Flags, yet for two weeks the renegade company refused to remove them and left this shameful spectacle hanging disrespectfully for the whole world to see.
This display of defiance and disrespect is a public warning to all about AAA’s shoddy product and disgraceful service toward their customers. Did I mention these are American Flags dedicated on behalf of America’s Military Veterans?
AAA’s $200 Shell Game
As though all this controversy over the neglect and disrespect of the American Flag wasn’t enough, AAA Flag billed us and we paid them $200 for the pole permit to install the Flags.
Michael St. Clair claims AAA Flag paid the $200 to the “City” of Los Angeles even though the project is in Los Angeles County jurisdiction. LA County claims they never received an application or the required $200 fee from AAA Flag to install the Flag Memorial.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and Los Angeles County Road Works Division are seriously investigating where our $200 went that was paid to AAA Flag for a permit to install the Flag Memorial.
The “Los Angeles Times”
On May 19, the “Los Angeles Times” featured a story about AAA Flag and the ongoing dispute over the responsibility and maintenance of the 100 Flag Memorial.
“Tattered Flags in West L.A. Anger Veteran” – LA Times
In the Times article, Mr. St. Clair continued to falsely blame, assail and insult me instead of accepting professional responsibility.
It seems that AAA Flag would’ve been proud and honored to showcase this patriotic monument instead of disrespecting the American Flag and those who defend it.
AAA Violates the U.S. Flag Code
In addition to being the biggest sign and banner company in Los Angeles, AAA Flag is also the largest seller of the American Flag in LA and they display approximately 50 American Flags on top of their buildings advertising their business, which is in violation of the U.S. Flag Code.
And so is the mammoth and towering banners posted “above” the American Flag to further advertise their products of “Flags, Banners, Signs.”
The scores of American Flags used for advertising AAA Flag’s business are posted on top of their several buildings 24/7, and are not removed in the evening, again in violation of the U.S. Flag Code.
AAA Flag should have their business license pulled for all the violations and flagrant disrespect they show toward the sacred symbol of America’s Freedom and the men and women who defend our unparalleled way of life,
After the “Los Angeles Times” article, the Veterans Grand Old Flag Memorial “disappeared.”
We filed a stolen property report with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and they are working with the detectives in the Los Angeles Police Department on this “grand theft” heist of our 100 Flag Memorial
AAA Flag has purportedly claimed they removed the entire Flag Memorial. If so, their possession of our Flag Memorial is still “grand theft” until the 100 Flags are properly restored.
All of this malicious assault on the American Flag and those who defend it is as un-American as anything imaginable. There are serious criminal and civil violations that were committed and all who participated and aided must be brought to justice.
Tragically, AAA’s assault on this noble project was not just a terrible insult to America’s Military Veterans, but an affront to every America Citizen.
AAA Flag Plunders Memorial Day Tribute
The Veterans Grand Old Flag Memorial embraces the largest VA in the nation as well hanging alongside the largest National Veterans Cemetery west of the Mississippi where 85,000 Military Veterans are buried, including 14 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Every year the Boy Scouts of America post small American Flags on each grave. Because of AAA Flag’s insensitivity and disrespect to the Flag Memorial, they robbed this grand tribute to all Veterans throughout American history who served with honor to defend the American Flag.
Let us pray that the men and women who defend the American Flag and our nation’s freedom do not do it with the same shoddiness and disrespect as AAA Flag & Banner.
God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!
U.S. Army, 1965-67, Schofield Barracks, Hqs., U.S Army, Hawaii. Director, The Veterans Revolution, Captain, the Old Veterans Guard, and Director, We the Veterans.
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