When a pair of young men inadvertently created controversy by planting a flag on a mountaintop — sparking debate and fueling media attention — their action generated a memorial in a Scottsdale desert preserve.
In 2016, Tommy Seros and Patrick Pearce bought a large American flag, hiked to a mountaintop in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve and flew the banner on a makeshift pole to honor veterans, not realizing that their gesture would draw criticism, according to a news release.
At first the youths resisted park preserve staff’s requests to dismantle their display. Their symbolic deed — which was not within the law — created factions: support for their patriotism versus disapproval of the unauthorized landscape alteration.
Seros and Pearce met with Scottsdale authorities, who suggested creating a permanent memorial at the Preserve Gateway Trailhead as an alternate location.
“It turned out perfect,” Seros said. “The Gateway is a beautiful setting.”
Bill Murphy, Scottsdale’s director of community services, said that the project was positive for all involved.
“The Gateway flag will fly for years to come as a tribute to Brian Kennedy and all of our veterans," Murphy said, referring to the man for whom the duo originally planted their first flag and for whom a Marine Corps scholarship was subsequently named in May.
“Brian was a terrific guy, full of life,” Seros said. “I’m glad the flagpole is there. It’s a great way to honor Brian and the sacrifices of all our veterans.”