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Abandonded flag stirs man’s curiosity and passion

Canyon Country man shares journey to restore old Stars and Stripes

Posted: March 16, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 16, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Patrick McGill salutes proudly after raising a new American flag to replace an old, tattered one left on a flagpole atop a hill near his Canyon Country home.

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At first the apparent stick on the hilltop near his Santa Clarita house just intrigued Patrick McGill.

Then it stirred his passion and a commitment to his neighborhood in honor of his country.

After two years in his Canyon Country home at the end of Abelia Road, McGill spotted what he believed to be the spine of a yucca plant.

In time, McGill felt compelled to identify the object.

Bringing binoculars to bear, McGill identified the stick as a flag pole. But whatever was affixed to it was wrapped around the pole like a knotted braid.

Driven to discover what hung on the pole, McGill climbed to the base of the hill and pulled out his binoculars again.

While not 100 percent certain, he believed the object was a weathered U.S. flag.

“When I got closer, I noticed a blue field and a very small section of white stars, faded almost to a gray color,” McGill said.

The son of a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and former police officer, the 34-year-old Canyon Country resident felt his curiosity change to inspiration. He felt compelled to bring the glory back to the deteriorated flag on the hilltop.

“I felt responsible in my own heart for changing it,” he said. “When I see a flag in general, I hold it in high regard.”

New flag

Buying a new 3-foot-by-5-foot Stars and Stripes, McGill set out with a GoPro camera to record his climb some 200 feet up the rocky-faced hillside. He inched along a narrow trail at the top to reach the pole.

Traversing the hill took McGill out of sight of the pole. The climb left him huffing and puffing, he said.

“But the closer I climbed to the peak, I could see it was a flag,” he said. “I hurried to reach it.”

Arriving at the peak, McGill could see that a person unknown, at some point in time, had improvised a flag pole out of metal pipes.

Over time wind had bent the pole.

Detaching the beaten old flag, McGill attached his new flag and hoisted it back up the pole to fly proudly.

From his vantage point, he could see across the valley to other ranges of hills and barely make out Soledad Canyon Road and Highway 14, he said.

A little prayer

“I felt that I became the guardian of this flag,” McGill said. “I wanted to restore the flag for my neighborhood. I’m very patriotic and very proud of this country.”

As for the flag that had seen far better days, McGill carried it down the hill and discussed proper disposal with his dad.

“I kind of got his blessing,” McGill said.

Proper disposal of an American flag is burning it, a task he performed with deep regard for the sacrifices many have made in service to this country, he said.

“I said a little prayer to lost soldiers and POWs and everyone I feel the flag reflects as it burned,” McGill said. “It deserved that respect.”

Flying proudly

Later, driving down neighborhood streets, McGill noticed a few people standing out on their driveways looking up at the peak and the new flag waving in the breeze, And he saw them smiling, he said.

He felt it restored their faith a little to see a flag there waving anew.

“It’s flying proud,” he said.

On Wednesday, McGill built a new flag pole to replace the one that had seen better days. He wants to ensure the new flag continues to fly high for a long time to come.

“I don’t know how long the old flag was up there,” McGill said. “I felt it deserved something extra.”

Patrick McGill tells his story, and viewers can watch his climb online on Studio Santa Clarita.


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