Flag evokes pride, concern
FRISCO – The flag on Peak 1 has been a source of pride and a symbol of patriotism for many in Summit County since it was placed on the mountain’s summit last year. But for others, it’s subject of concern.
Dillon resident Kurt Kizer was one of about 60 people (and 20 dogs) who climbed the mountain Wednesday to replace the American flag, which has become tattered after a year of flying at almost 13,000 feet.
Kizer, who organized the hike last year, said he’d like to make the climb an annual event. But when he asked to renew his $75 Forest Service permit, he learned not everyone is happy about the flag.
Jamie Connell, district ranger for the Dillon district of the White River National Forest, estimated about 30 people have called or stopped by the office to express their concern.
“We received calls from people who were concerned whether or not it was an appropriate place for a flag,” Connell said, adding that worries include the fact the flag is flown at night without a light and during inclement weather, which doesn’t follow formal flag etiquette.
Last year, a group of hikers climbed the mountain to place a U.S. flag at its peak after the terrorist attacks. Wednesday’s climb was organized both to replace the tattered flag and to commemorate the tragedy – an act of remembrance, patriotism and community.
“We were a brotherhood with the summit of that mountain,” Kizer said.
Kizer said the hike was an ideal way to spend the solemn day.
“It’s a very bonding time up there,” he said. “When you hike a mountain, you get a sense of gratification for yourself – that you didn’t give up, you persevered, and you made it. When you have 60 people that feel the same way, it’s an incredible feeling. And I think that’s what America is about. We dig deep, and we do what it takes to persevere and accomplish goals that are necessary as a country.”
Most people reached the summit by 11 a.m., Kizer said, and the new American flag was flying by noon.
“I think it’s great to be able to look up and see the flag on Peak 1,” said Silverthorne resident Dave Simmons, who helped build the flag platform. Simmons said seeing the flag at the mountain’s summit reminds him of those lost on Sept. 11 and brings feelings of pride for his country.
Dave Owens of Frisco joined the group this year. Wednesday was the first time Owens climbed to the summit, which he said was a “brutal” hike.
“That’s the way I wanted to spend (Sept. 11), and I’m glad I did it,” Owens said, adding he was disappointed to hear the U.S. Forest Service has received complaints about the flag.
Despite the complaints, however, the Forest Service granted Kizer a permit to place the flag atop the mountain for the second year in a row.
“Certainly, I think everybody believes that the memorial itself is a wonderful thing,” Connell said. “That’s why (the Forest Service) agreed that it was a good thing.”
Connell and Kizer said they hope to find a solution so the flag can remain on the peak.
“We want to do something so everybody feels it’s something that’s good for our community.” Kizer said.
“(We) want to make sure we do it in a way that isn’t somehow insulting to other people,” Connell said.
Several local military veterans said they do not have a problem with the flag on Peak 1 – even though it flies at night, and in stormy weather.
“It does not upset me, and God bless them for putting it up there,” said Silverthorne resident Ed Mountford, who served 30 years in the Navy.
Frisco Mayor Bob Moscatelli is a retired Army colonel. While seeing a flag tattered distresses him, he said he was delighted when the group decided to place the flag on Peak 1 last year.
“To me, that was a patriotic gesture done by some patriotic citizens, and I applaud their efforts,” he said.
Air Force veteran and Frisco resident Bill Pelham said, “I love the flag on Peak 1. It’s not lit, it does fly during inclement weather, but I think it makes a great statement. It’s a patriotic symbol that we need in this day and age.”
Retired Army artillery officer and Frisco resident Tony Flitcraft said he’s heard nothing but positive comments about the flag.
“The fact that it’s up there … I think that’s wonderful,” he said. “I look for it every time I go out the door.”
When Flitcraft heard about the calls the Forest Service received, he wondered aloud whether the Marine Corps used a light for the flag erected on the top of Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima in World War II.
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