When a group of teens realized the American flag planted on top of a nearby hill was no longer there, they took it upon themselves to restore the Stevenson Ranch landmark to its former glory.
“There’d been an American flag on top of this mountain for many years, longer than I can remember,” Brandon Park said.
So, when the high school seniors realized the flag was no longer there, they decided to investigate, climbing the mountain to find the flag had been knocked down and torn up.
“There wasn’t really much of a flag anymore, and that’s what made us want to start this project,” added Jagger Nelson.
Andy Chaidez had climbed the mountain previously and injured himself, so he knew the danger, which is why he and Reid Twitchell enlisted the help of their friends, including Park, Nelson, Brody Twitchell, Brian Gonzalez and Brandon Han, to fix the flag.
“We came up with the plans on what materials we need to actually set up the flag and make it so that it wouldn’t fall down again,” Twitchell said, adding that they even decided to add concrete to the flag pole to make sure it stood for years to come.
It wasn’t until the boys scaled the first ropes needed to climb steep parts of the hill that they realized the commitment they’d made, Chaidez added.
“It was actually really hard because there were very few supporting ropes to actually climb up, most of it was just basically mountain climbing,” Twitchell said.
“The first time, Reid had to free climb a lot of it to put up ropes himself,” added Gonzalez.
Some of the group members ended up climbing the mountain multiple times to scout and plan before the group went up to actually plant the flag, Park said.
“What we ended up doing was hauling 20 to 30 pounds of cement up there and (a few gallons) water, and cementing the flagpole in place,” Twitchell said.
“It was hard,” Chaidez added, chuckling.
When at the top, the boys realized the original flagpole was too small for the new flag, and ended up having to use the tools they had on hand to drill new holes and use the metal rod they’d brought to mix the concrete to makeshift a new flagpole.
“It was much bigger than the last one,” Park said of the new 6-foot-by-3-foot flag they’d put up.
The whole process, working as a team and sweating to get the job done, felt like something out of a movie to Chaidez.
“It’s just amazing,” he said. “Once you actually experience it, you feel like you’re part of an operation.”
The boys agreed they’re proud to have put up the new flag large enough to be visible from Pico Canyon Road.
“It’s one of the things I’m most proud of (doing),” Twitchell said.
Twitchell and Gonzalez agreed that it made them feel good to give back to the community in a way.
“It’s a pretty noticeable flag,” Nelson added. “It’s a super cool sight.”
Park, who can see the flag from his window, is happy to see it still standing, even after some of the strong winds the area has had.
“It’s good to know that we did a pretty solid job,” Park added.
During their excursions up the mountain, the boys had discovered they weren’t the only ones who made the climb, finding a geocache with dozens of names inscribed.
In addition, they found out the original flag had been dedicated to local Matthew Weiss, who used to frequent the hills.
“We didn’t know him personally, we just wanted to fix that flag up there, (but we thought), ‘OK, let’s put a flag up there in honor of him,’” Nelson added.
Overall, Park feels as though the flag is a good parable to what the county has been through in the past year.
“(Replacing) the torn-up flag … (with) a new flag, and now it’s better than ever represents a lot of what’s going on right now,” Park said, referring to the pandemic and difficulties going on across the nation this past year.
“It represents new hope,” Nelson added, “because we’re just coming out of the pandemic now. … We’ve risen up, stronger now.”