- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

MILLERSVILLE, Md. (AP) — A 73-year-old Korean War veteran who tried to place 50 U.S. flags along a highway overpass has been ordered to take them down.

Leo Bessenhoffer said the flags are inspiring. The state says they are a safety hazard.

The tug of war between Mr. Bessenhoffer, a feisty veteran, and state officials continued throughout the summer. Mr. Bessenhoffer put up flags twice. State workers removed them twice.

This week Mr. Bessenhoffer got to within 15 flags of his goal before state officials prevailed. He has until Monday to remove the flags or the state will take them down again.

He told the Annapolis Capital he now accepts defeat.

“I’m an old man,” he said. “This is a lot of work for me.”

Still, motorists were inspired by his display, Mr. Bessenhoffer said.

“This is not only important to me, it’s important to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not my flag. It’s your flag. It’s everybody’s flag. I could see if it was a Ku Klux Klan flag or a Nazi flag, but this flag means a lot to a lot of people, especially veterans.”

But highway officials said the flags could cause accidents if they fell onto the highway.

“Our main interest is the safety of the motorists on [Interstate] 97,” said State Highway Administration spokeswoman Kellie Boulware. “We understand that he’s being patriotic, and we support that. If one of them falls off … it has a potential to cause a crash.”

State rules prohibit the placement of any items on overpasses, medians or travel lanes in the state’s right of way, Miss Boulware said.

Mr. Bessenhoffer has about a dozen U.S. flags flying around his home.

“I still get kind of a rush seeing the flags,” he said. “They’re beautiful.”

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