Man’s demonstration against NFL protests brings unexpected surprise

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MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) – Originally from New Jersey, Gerald Breen did a lot with his short time on this earth.

Just 21 years old when he passed, Breen also received the Purple Heart for his service in the Vietnam War. Now, his presence is felt almost 700 miles away, in Murrells Inlet.

“We’re all different races. We’re all different regions,” said Dennis Mazzilli of Murrells inlet. “The one thing we all have in common is that red, white and blue – that flag. We need to stick together.”

Mazzilli purchased a billboard with his Uncle Gerald on it as his way of joining the debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

“I want this to be about him and not me. I didn’t want to do another interview, but this is unreal,” Mazzilli said. “This is unbelievable.”

Mazzilli originally turned down a request for an interview until Chris Boesch approached a WMBF News reporter and talked about the personal connection she had with the man on the billboard.

Boesch saw a story on television about Breen the night before.

“I saw the name on the screen and I said, ‘It can’t be the same Gerald Breen that was best friends with my brother-in-law in West New York, New Jersey,” she said. “First thing this morning, I call my sister and I asked her. I know he passed away in Vietnam and she said, ‘Yes, March 5, 1967.’ I said, ‘How do you remember that?’ She said it was because we were best friends with him. She said his funeral was actually on March 15, which was my birthday. We couldn’t go because there was such a bad snow storm.”

Boesch’s husband, Gary, was stunned.

“Seeing that Purple Heart, that says it all right there,” he said. “I guess he knows that he earned it, you know? I think we made a new friend in Murrells Inlet.”

Two strangers so far away from home, looking up at something and someone looking down upon them.

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