CLINTON HILL, Brooklyn - There is a gleaming new post office in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, but flying over it was an American flag and a Prisoner of War flag both literally in tatters.
"Nothing's left at of it," 91-year-old World War II veteran Jack Vanasco said. "It's like a piece of rag."
Call it Vanasco's stars and gripes.
"Terrible, the flag looks terrible," he said. "And it's the country we fought for."
Vanasco and his three brothers all fought honorably for the flag. He was just 17 when he enlisted, the U.S. Army corporal stationed in Pacific Theater of World War II.
"We fought under this flag. and we grew up with this flag," he said. "We learned as young kids to honor the flag."
They all made it home to Brooklyn, where for generations, his family has run an appliance business on Myrtle Avenue across the street from the post office.
"When we see the condition of this flag, we don't like it," he said.
He noticed the flag's condition last spring.
"I told them the flag is all deteriorated," he said. "You got to get it changed. Call the maintenance people."
Vanasco first complained to the post office four months ago, and he has a notepad filled with names of post office personnel.
"And then I went to the main post office," he said. "They said they were going to get in touch, but nothing happened."
Then, the flags got worse, with the Prisoner of War flag disintegrated. We called our contacts at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which has always helped 7 On Your Side with mail fraud and counterfeit stories. And by the time the sun went down, Old Gory was replaced to it's original glory.
But someone else had also acted, a man we interviewed the day before. Esam Abdo had told us he too wanted to replace the tattered flag, to thank the U.S. for the opportunities it will give his young family. And Wednesday morning, the recent immigrant from Yemen had a gift to share with the veteran. Strangers before, the neighbors and now friends paid tribute in their own way to the symbol that means the same to both: freedom.
U.S. Postal Inspectors said they first learned of this only Tuesday, and a work order was already in progress. They were happy to replace it immediately. As for Vanasco, he said he feels five years younger with relief.
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