Red Flag at New Stadium… with Stars and Stripes

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The story of the American flag flying high at Levi’s® Stadium is really a story about a local soldier.

And nobody knows where to find him.

I’m an ex-Navy SEAL, and I just want to let you know that I’m a veteran – your flag is ripped. Can you make sure it gets replaced pretty soon?

Dave Masel, stadium builder Turner Devcon’s general superintendent, is paraphrasing here, but this is the voice mail message he and his crew have received on occasion.

“We try to keep an eye out, but it’s cool that he calls all the time and says it,” Masel said of the mystery man. “We don’t want to leave it up there when it’s ripped, but it is hard to replace. It’s the windiest part of the stadium; the wind comes off the bay.”

As was the case Monday for the fifth time since July 2012, a stadium worker replaced a tattered U.S. flag while standing about 210 feet off the ground. The flag is connected to a pole encased in a tube atop the stadium’s northeast corner. It should be replaced by a flag pole when Levi’s® opens, making future swaps of stars and swipes easier to handle.

“We’ve taken a pride in making sure that the flag gets changed for him,” Masel said. “It’s good to have a SEAL watching your stadium, too.

“He says he lives in the neighborhood and looks at the flag every day. We’d love to meet him. He doesn’t leave his number, and he doesn’t leave his name. Hopefully, he can come and visit us because we’re all about the military.”

The torn flags – and there have now been four of them – are, per tradition, burned by a stadium safety director’s Boy Scouts troop.

There’s another meaning of the red, white and blue flag you can see walking, biking or driving past the 49ers construction site.

“When we started structural steel, we started four corners simultaneously,” Masel said. “In the northeast corner, steel got set quicker than the other three. They were having a race to see who could get (theirs) up first. Each corner had an American flag and, as the building went up, it became a life of its own. Everybody started making sure, because that was the first piece that was put in the stadium, that they wanted that American flag on the steel all the way up to the top.

“People will always say, ‘What’s that American flag doing in the corner?’ And we can always say that as long as the stadium is in operation, ‘This is in recognition of the first piece of steel set on the building.’”

And of the serviceman that, for now, prefers his anonymity.

–Andrew Pentis, 49ers.com

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