One flag: Two stories...

  • An American flag flying upside down at the home of Ed Grinnell, owner of Eddie’s Wheels which is adjacent to his home on State Street in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/14/2017 10:12:34 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Les Chadwick, a U.S. military veteran, has made it his mission to serve as keeper-of-the-flags in several Franklin County towns, including Buckland and Shelburne.

Before Memorial Day, the Shelburne resident replenishes American flags on the graves of veterans in Shelburne and Buckland cemeteries, on the town halls and the post office. He recently replaced a torn American flag on the Bridge of Flowers and has put up flags in other local towns. He’s also donated some flags to schools.

So, he says, he was taken aback while driving by the intersection of Route 2 and State Street, to see an American flag hanging upside down.

When Chadwick stopped at the home of Ed Grinnell, to tell him the flag wasn’t properly hung, Grinnell told him, “I did it on purpose. This country’s in a lot of trouble. It needs a lot of help.”

Chadwick, whose brothers and father were also veterans, said: “I’m very surprised he’s doing this — a business man, especially. What he’s doing is legal — if he wants to do that. This threw me into a tilt, to see this flag upside down,” he remarked. “I almost rather see one ripped than to see this.”

Grinnell is the founder of Eddie’s Wheels, a local company that makes dog carts with disabled dogs — carts that have world-wide sales.

Grinnell points out that the flag is on his home, not on his business, and that Eddie’s Wheels offers discounted prices to veterans and free carts to disabled veterans with disabled dogs.

“The vets at Standing Rock flew American flags upside down,” Grinnell said, referring to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. “People have to speak out in this world.”

“Too many people say, ‘Love it or leave it.’ This is my answer,” said Grinnell.

The U.S. Code of Laws says, “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

But more people, like Grinnell, are using this symbol as a form of free speech protest.

“It’s the international distress code,” said Grinnell. “It means ‘We need help.’ If you fly that (upside down flag) on a ship, it means we need help.”

“It’s a bit of a protest — there is an issue of our new leader,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump. Grinnell said he believes the new president has already taken many steps that are similar to what happened in Germany during the 1930s with the Nazis, including lying to the press and banning the press from some of his news conferences.

“This is not disrespecting the country, or people who died for the country, or the flag,” Grinnell continued. “So far, only one person doesn’t understand, but other people in town have congratulated us.”


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