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Veterans, complex manager at odds over hanging, flying US flag at apartment complex

DERRY — Londonderry native Armand Dupere raised eight children, survived prostate cancer, endured open-heart surgery and served an eight-year stint in the U.S. Navy, where he traveled throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, and caught the tail end of World War II and the beginning of the Korean War.

These days, life has slowed down a bit for Dupere, 84, a resident of the Nutfield Heights senior housing complex, who, for the last eight years, has kept a miniature flag tacked onto his front door. One of his day's greatest pleasures, he said, comes from viewing the community's large American flag from the window of his fourth-floor apartment.

But that new flag flying in front of the towering apartment building is also a symbol of the tension between Nutfield's veterans and the facility's management.

This past fall, as Veterans Day neared, Dupere and several other veterans said they contacted the building manager because they wanted to see a flag flying in front of their building during the holiday.

&#';These residents were concerned because the flags had typically been taken down in early fall; it's supposed to be left up throughout the year,&#'; said Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, who was contacted by the local veterans earlier this week when further issues arose.

Baldasaro, who co-sponsored 2011 legislation requiring the state to adopt a flag code, noted that the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act prohibits a condominium, cooperative, or real estate management association from adopting or enforcing any policy or agreement that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag in accordance with the Federal Flag Code on residential property.

&#';I think the issue here was that (the management) just didn't like the idea of them putting up a flag without talking to them first,&#'; said Baldasaro, who contacted the property manager this week to discuss proper flag etiquette. &#';But I also think there's more to it than meets the eye. I compliment these veterans and what they're standing for.&#';

Dupere said the residents had been promised several months ago that the site's flag, which was severely faded and torn, would be either repaired or replaced. When that didn't happen, the veterans decided to take matters into their own hands.

With a handful of veterans gathering around a computer, the men pitched in enough to order a 5-by-8 American flag for $47. Last weekend, three of the veterans, one of whom uses a prosthetic leg, decided to hang the flag on their own.

Site manager Bonnie King said she wasn't at all pleased when she discovered the new flag Monday morning — but not for the reasons stated by the veterans.

&#';The flag had never been discussed with us,&#'; King said on Thursday. &#';Had they came to the office first, I would have gratefully accepted the flag and gotten someone to hang it for them.&#';

She said: &#';We never told them they couldn't have a flag. But having them hang it by themselves presents a safety issue for these men; many of them have health issues.&#';

King said the flag would remain where it is for now, but the fact that not all of the residents play by the community's rules concerns her.

&#';It's a big liability issue,&#'; she said.

Dupere offered a different perspective.

&#';Why should we have to get permission to hang the American flag?&#'; he said.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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