There’s no end to the interesting things you can find when you visit a flea market.
Even so, Walter Brown knew he’d glanced something special while perusing a market just south of Hemphill, Texas with his wife Lanie. The couple was there to shop for a holster for Lanie’s new Walter P22 pistol, but it was a pile of flags they ended up being drawn to.
Walter told to Lanie, “come look at this”, shortly after sifting through them. It turned out he’d made quite the find indeed.
YouTube / USA TODAY
In Walter’s hands was an old flag covered in writing, so the couple began to read.
It transpired the words on the white stripes were for a fallen lance corporal. TODAY reported that one of the messages read: “Fred, you were a good Marine and we will always remember you,” whilst another said: “Hey CHEEKS, wherever you are, make sure you watch over us.”
Lanie recognized the rank as specific to the Marines, her son and son-in-law both served with them. The sons told her and Walter that it was a “tribute flag” they had, which should have been included in a package to the Marine’s family after having been signed by all the other members of his platoon.
After some poking around, the Browns determined that the flag was for Fred Lee Maciel, a 20-year-old Marine who died in action in Iraq, 2005.
Thanks to this information, they were able to find Fred’s mother, Patsy. Years and years after losing her son in a helicopter crash, she received a message telling her Walter and Lanie had something she would want.
The Browns were aware that such an important gift couldn’t simply be sent by airmail or mainstream delivery, though. There was no option but to present it to Patsy by hand.
“Patsy, our family feels so honored to have been chosen to find this flag,” Lanie told Fred’s mother, as the tribute flag was handed over.
“Thank you for sharing this piece of your boy with us.”
The two held a firm embrace in front of family members and loved ones at the grave of the fallen Marine. Fred had been one of 31 American servicemen died in a crash 220 miles west of Baghdad.
Although Patsy had received her son’s effects soon after his passing, the tribute flag never arrived at her house.
“It’ll be with me ’til I die,” she said, upon receiving the flag.
“It was a simple twist of fate it wasn’t someone else finding a flag meant for me and my husband. This is a piece of my son I’m getting back. It’s a great feeling.
It might seem like a small gesture, but what Walter and Lanie were able to do must have been amazing for Patsy.
All of our service men and women deserve respect, love, and support, as do the families of those who risk and sometimes sacrifice their lives every day.