I met Kenny Pasten on a hike in Hollywood and knew he had to be a guest on my show. Unfortunately, since the taping his beloved Rexitron has passed away – making this tale even more heart-wrenching and touching.
Below I have copied over Kenny’s story he wrote for change.org and his petition to get the flags listed as protected by the City of Los Angeles.
Listen to the episode on iTunes and Stitcher!
My name is Kenny Pastén. I have served for nine years in the United States Army. I continue to serve my country in the United States Army Reserves. During my time in the Army, I was able to work closely with the dog handlers and the dog trainers. Since that time, I have been blessed with my own service dog RexiTron. He is my partner, we spend every minute of everyday together. RexiTron along with the difficulty for combat Veterans to gain and maintain employment, pushed me towards my passion for animals. That inspired me to start my business. I said to myself “If no one will give me an opportunity then I will make my own opportunity.” I started RexiTron.com, I am a pet sitter/ dog hiker. RexiTron and I take other dogs on hikes at different locations all over the city of Los Angeles.
On Sunday December 14, 2015, RexiTron and I started our hike to Mt. San Gorgonio which is 11,503 feet in elevation(The tallest mountain in Southern California). Seven hours into the hike, near the top I
had a knee pain. I was forced to stop, the sun went down quickly and within minutes we were caught in a snowstorm. RexiTron and I dug a foxhole under the only tree in the area. I carried with me an American flag that I planned on planting at the top of the mountain. This same flag has been with me for my entire military career, I was given this flag as a member of the Honor Guard(Funeral detail) I performed funerals for fallen soldiers covering all LA County. This flag hung on the wall on my combat tour to Iraq. I also wrapped this flag around my chest before I jumped out plane’s at US Army Airborne School. This is the same flag we used to cover ourselves on the mountain, we spent the night in subzero weather. Right away we were buried under two feet of snow. Still being hit with severe winds, we got up the next morning to try to return down the mountain. It was still dark out, and we were still having to fight through the snowstorm. We finally reached the top and I called the Sheriff’s rescue helicopter with the remaining 1% of cell phone charge. The Sheriff’s helicopter came to rescue us three hours later. We had spent a total of eighteen hours on the mountain in a snowstorm but we made it!
This ordeal along with the sixteen year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks inspired me to plant a flag at the top of some of LA’s highest peaks, on January 21, 2016. After planting my flags at a few of the trails, the reaction of many fellow hikers was unbelievably positive. Many of them say they “Were inspired” or “It really kept me going to reach the top”. This is when the Rex Flag Challenge began on Social media. It is dedicated to my beloved service dog RexiTron. The Rex Flag Challenge promotes patriotism and motivates people in and around the Los Angeles area to get outside and hike to the flags. While they are at the flags, they are supposed to take their picture with the flag and post it with the hashtag #RexFlagChallenge on Instagram/Facebook. This is a way for people to come together by posting their pictures documenting their experience while honoring our American flag and our country during these difficult times. There have even been celebrities singers like Justin Bieber, Peete Wentz and Diplo, just to name the most recent, they go to the flags and take pictures with them. It seemed like everyone was enjoying the presence of the flags on the hiking trails until some of them began to come up missing or vandalized. I replaced these missing and destroyed flags several times(totaling $5,000). Eventually, I spoke to someone at the Parks and Recreation Department(Griffith Park Rangers) about the flags being taken. This is when I was shocked that they told me. That they had received a complaint from someone stating “The American flag is offensive and they do not like seeing it.” Unfortunately, the park ranger have removed some of the flags. Each flag set up (pole, extended pole, clamps, zip ties, tape, rie-bar, couplers, solar lights and flag) costs about $200 dollars. I have funded this project with personal funds from my small business. I am doing my best to gain sponsors(Flags and hardware)to help me maintain these flags if they are vandalized or weathered.
Finally, this brings us to the whole point of this letter. I would like to submit this proposal requesting formal permission to erect our American flag per LA County ordinance title 26 section 106.3: 9) Flagpoles not erected upon a building and not more than 15 feet high, exempt.
Desired locations: The Wisdom Tree, Runyon Canyon, The Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Park Observatory(Mt. Hollywood) at each flag I would like to put a commemorative plaque dedicated to each of my fallen comrades The Hollywood sign(Spc. Alan Gosik) , Runyon Canyon(Cpt. Drew Russell) , Wisdom Tree(Sfc. Tomas Avey) Griffith(RexiTron) along with a solar lights to keep the flag lit at night.
As a completion prize you get one of the stars from a retired flag from this challenge. The American flag is not meant to be offensive. It is a symbol of all of us and what it means to be an American. The American flag flies at every government building around the world that I have ever been to so I have to wonder why should a park be any different. This is very personal for me because I have served this great nation of ours with pride and dedication as a member of the US Army. It was also an American flag that saved my life on December 14, 2015. I have to believe that there are more people that are inspired and touched by the American flag than are offended by it.
A Patriot, Veteran and a proud Angeleno.