Dispute Over Torn Flag In South County

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AFFTON, MO (KPLR)-- Several businesses at an Affton strip mall are up in arms over the condition of the flag that’s flying in front of the center.  The stars and stripes are a shredded mess.  The blue field around the stars is faded, and the flag is frayed at the edges and torn almost completely in two parallel to the stripes.  

The center, on Mackenzie Road, is home to an insurance agency, a dentist, and some other businesses.  They say they’ve been complaining about the flag’s condition for a couple of weeks.  They’ve been getting complaints from passers by and customers alike.  

“I have people that we insured years ago that are veterans,” Walter Walton, a Farmers’ Insurance agent told us,  “(they) come in and see that and are offended.  And I can’t blame them for being offended.”

Others agree.  

“A disgrace.  A complete disgrace to the country,” is how one agency employee described it.  

Nearly every business in the strip says they’ve called landlord Rocko Bratic to complain, but Bratic says they’re not telling the entire story.

“That’s wholly baloney. That’s not true,” he said in his office in the Shell Building downtown, Wednesday.  

Bratic claims he was under the impression the calls he was receiving were coming from passers-by.  He says none of the callers identified themselves as tenants.

  “I don’t know because my phone is on the sign over there, anybody can call.”

One woman, he says, called repeatedly, to the point he lost patience with her.  

“(She) calls me five times in fifteen minutes.  Yes, I told her, if you don’t like it, buy flag, go over there in hang.  Or don’t look at it.”

It turns out he was speaking to the receptionist for dentist and tenant Mary Grimm.  Grimm was furious.   

“My father is a veteran of World War II, of course passed away,” she told us.  “My two brothers are veterans of the Vietnam War.  And I was just like, I can’t believe this.  I just can’t believe this.”  

Bratic says this is not about disrespect for the flag.  He even showed us an antique star spangled banner he keeps in his office.  It’s not far from what is nearly a shrine to U.S. presidents, with photos of nearly every one going back to Kennedy and a drawing he did himself of JFK.  

But at the same time, he says he didn’t see this as  a “big deal,” and was surprised FOX 2 saw it as newsworthy.  

Just the same, he told us he had ordered a replacement flag this past Monday.  Then, about forty minutes before this story went on the air, he called saying that flag had arrived in the mail.  He plans to replace it Thursday.  

To tenants on Mackenzie Road, however, it’s not soon enough.  They feel the flag should have been taken down long ago.  

“All we want is for it to be taken down.  Just take it down and don’t fly it anymore.  If you’re not gonna fly it properly then take it down,” one tenant said.