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BRATTLEBORO — Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., sent a surprise gift to Brattleboro’s former fire chief in recognition of his retirement.

On Friday morning, Mike Bucossi was asked to visit the Brattleboro Fire Department where he was handed a package by Steve Barrett, the director of Brattleboro’s Department of Public Works.

“Inside it was an American flag and nice note from the senator,” Bucossi told the Reformer on Friday afternoon.

A certificate inside the box stated the flag had been flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor.

“Chief Bucossi is very deserving of this,” said Leonard Howard, current fire chief. “The number of lives he has touched is commendable.”

Members of the Brattleboro Fire Department held a ceremony for retiring fire chief Mike Bucossi on Monday, March 29, 2021.

The flag came from the Capitol Flag Program at the request of Leahy. The Architect of the Capitol, which is responsible for the operations and care of the Capitol complex, administers the program, and flags are flown from special flag poles on the Capitol campus and presented at the request of senators and representatives.

The flag Bucossi received came with a certificate of authenticity, stating it was flown on his behalf.

In the letter, Leahy congratulated Bucossi on his retirement after 43 years with the department.

“I am continually impressed by you and your fellow Vermont first responders, who have been committed to protecting public safety for decades,” Leahy wrote in a note with the flag. “Please know that my wife Marcelle and I appreciate your service to the people of Brattleboro and the vicinity.”

Barrett, who graduated from Brattleboro Union High School with Bucossi in 1975, said he reached out to Leahy’s office and requested the flag.

“This is just something special for a fire chief that I served under as a captain of a ladder truck and worked with him in my job as director of DPW,” said Barrett. “He’s been a great friend and a comrade that I respect.”

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“It was a wicked surprise,” said Bucossi, about receiving the flag. “And it’s quite an honor. This is something I never would have expected or even dreamed of.”

Although Bucossi has a flagpole at home, he said he probably won’t fly it. Instead, he’s going to put it in a flag case to be handed down in his family.

“This flag is a recognition of the hundreds of people I have learned from, worked with and trained and the hundreds of people I have met on the job over my 43 years,” said Bucossi.

He said the flag puts a period on his life as a firefighter.

“My days fighting fires are over,” said Bucossi. “It’s certainly been good to me, but I’m done.”

But he said he’s not done working, and he hopes to serve the community in a different way. He’s looking for another job, but he’s going to put that on hold to visit his grandkids in Pennsylvania.

For now, he’s humbled that his friend thought enough of him to reach out to Leahy’s office.

“So many people do really good work and they go unnoticed,” said Bucossi. “I am proud to have received it.”

On Monday morning, the fire department hosted a private breakfast for Bucossi at Brattleboro’s Central Station.

Lt. Eric Poulin, the union representative for Local 4439, said the former fire chief had not only done right by the community, he had also done right by the department’s firefighters.

“Thank you for being mindful, conscientious, and respectful to the bargaining unit and always having an open door and a great line of communication,” said Poulin.

In a letter read during the breakfast, Bucossi’s wife, Tracy, wrote that he was a great fire chief, but an even better family man.

“Your family is blessed,” she wrote, noting they were “beyond proud” for all he had accomplished and achieved during his career. “You’re my hero.”

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.