Local veteran credited with new flag display at Merced College

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Old Glory is now one of the first sights to greet students, staff, and visitors at Merced College.

It's part of a newly enhanced entrance that also features benches and new signage.

American Legion members proudly raised the stars and stripes for the first time during a ceremony Thursday evening.

That moment was a dream come true for local veteran Chuck Fennessy.

"The flag belongs to the people, and the people should be able to see it," he says.

Fennessy fought for the freedoms the flag represents while serving in the Air Force during the Korean War.

He later earned a degree from Merced College and became a member of the Merced College Foundation.

He was concerned about the previous placement of the American flag because trees had grown to obscure it from view.

In 2013 he started spearheading an effort to have the pole relocated to the front of the campus.

His beloved wife, Sylvia, was his biggest supporter.

Fennessy says, "Within the next 3 or 4 months after that she passed away, but it was a fantastic 61 years."

With her memory in mind, Fennessy maintained his mission to move the flags.

He became a frequent visitor to the foundation office after Jill Cunningham was hired as executive director in 2018.

He explained how much the flag means to veterans, including those who are students at Merced College.

Cunningham was moved by his passion and determined to find funding for the project.

"A gift came to the Merced College Foundation from a community member in Merced, the Toney Family, and it was enough for us to use to fund a new flag pole project," says Cunningham.

The college even surprised Chuck by naming it the Fennessy Flagpole, in honor of him and his late wife.

Fennessy says, "She would be as proud as a peacock."

The poles are located near the campus's Veterans Resource Center and the lawn where the college hosts the Field of Honor with Merced Sunrise Rotary ever year.

Starting November 9, it will be filled with flags honoring service members, veterans, first responders, and fallen heroes.

Fennessy hopes those flags and this one will evoke the same emotions he feels every time he looks at the red, white, and blue.

Fennessy says, "I hope they say, oh my God isn't that a beautiful sight, and I think it will."
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.