Mystery of almost 20 years answered: Who is the Highway 80 flag - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Mystery of almost 20 years answered: Who is the Highway 80 flag keeper?

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

A true telling of patriotism. A well-known American flag flies on the scenic drive to Tybee Island.

The mystery for almost 20 years - who put it up?

Savannah police say this flag is an important landmark. One that's been here for two decades. Some people passing by say it's a beautiful notion, some say a great patriotic addition. 

Nestor Gernay - the man behind this emblem - says it's a daily reminder of what our country stands for. Freedom. 

Hurricane Irma devastated the island tearing down homes, trees, and this flag. 

Officers saw the flag on the ground, and immediately jumped out of the car and rescued it from flood water and debris. Once it was dried out and the storm passed, they raised the flag back to its post.

They said it was the right thing to do, a deed Nestor Gernay has been doing for years, and we just happened to catch the execution Saturday.

"You won't find a more important patriot than I am. I love this country and I just don't understand why people - especially at this time - are disrespecting our flag," said Gernay.

Gernay started this tradition on September 11, 2001. 16 years later, September 11, 2017, Gernay says Hurricane Irma could not strip anyone of their allegiance. And those police officers? A true testimony to that. 

Hurricane Irma tried to tear down this pride. Savannah-Chatham police officers noticed the fallen flag, rescued the stars and stripes from fallen debris, and raised both the flag and faith. An act that meant the world to this man.

"I'm going to take the time here in the next few days and arrange to give it to the police department for saving it, and hopefully it will mean something," said Gernay.

Mean as much as this country means to him.

"This is a great country. There's none better," said Gernay.

Gernay's roots aren't from the home of the free and brave. 

"I'm one of those immigrants. My parents came to this country when I was 11 years old. When I became 18, I served in the military..and you won't find a more important patriot than I am," said Gernay.

He says he's had a few people help him along the way. Even almost 2 decades later, the quality of the flags is unwavering.

"No sense in putting up something cheap. This is America," said Gernay.

Gernay hesitated to speak about his devoted spirit for all these years. He says he doesn't do it for recognition. But every time someone passes the flag on this highway he wants travelers to remember this.

"That they can be thankful that they're living in the greatest country in the world," said Gernay.

Something he says no one should take for granted.

He hasn't locked down a date or time to give Savannah Metro Police the flag they rescued, but says he hopes in the next few days. WTOC will continue to follow the story and when we can expect that reunion of gratitude. 

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