When Heisler was told of the discrepancy, he said he didn’t remember who sent him the flag, but said it came in a FedEx package with the Texas flag that went on the New York trip.
The story of the flag’s beginnings, along with the Ground Zero account, is cited prominently on Honor Flag’s website and in news accounts about the flag’s arrival at ceremonies. Still, Heisler played down the importance of the flag’s early history.
“You can challenge me … on how the flag originated,” he said. “But you cannot challenge me on how many officers this flag has memorialized.”
He typically offers the flag to be raised on poles in front of courthouses or other places to commemorate those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The U.S. Honor Flag definitely flew over the Texas Capitol, at Heisler’s request, on Sept. 11, 2007.
Heisler, who said helping people has been therapeutic for his Crohn’s disease, also arranges memorial services for families.
He also goes to the families of the fallen and offers to take care of media requests for the family, free of charge.
In Kaufman, Heisler took over as a spokesman for Cynthia McLelland’s children from a previous marriage, and her family friend Leah Phillips.
At a news conference outside his house last weekend, Heisler said the family was “furious” that the McLellands didn’t receive more protection after Hasse’s killing, and questioned whether officials were doing enough. The Kaufman County sheriff’s office then questioned his legitimacy as a spokesman for the McLellands.
Heisler showed reporters emails indicating he was hired by some family members, but parted ways with them the next day. Phillips told The Dallas Morning News that she felt that Heisler exploited her.
Heisler had a similar dispute in 2007 with Leander City Manager Biff Johnson, who said Heisler resigned after making numerous unauthorized comments to the news media.
Johnson died in 2011, and Leander Fire Department Chief Bill Gardner declined to comment.
Regardless, many other of Heisler’s clients walk away pleased.
Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta, who serves on the Honor Network board, said he can’t vouch for the flag’s origin, but said Heisler has been great for the families of fallen law enforcement since they met five years earlier.
Cynthia McLelland’s children, Nathan and Christina Foreman, also lauded Heisler in an email and said they didn’t feel exploited.
Mike McLelland’s eldest son, J.R., who had said he wanted Heisler out of the family’s lives, said he appreciated Heisler’s work arranging the memorial services for his father and stepmother.
And Jaime Pardinas, a Miami police officer stabbed in Grapevine by a convict en route to a Nevada prison, said Heisler “went above and beyond” in his aid while he was hospitalized.
“Everything he did was positive,” Pardinas said. “He went out of his way to make himself available to me and my family.”
Heisler said happy families are proof that he is doing something honorable.
“The origination of the flag is not important,” he said. “Where it is today and where it is going is important.”
©2013 The Dallas Morning News
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