In the stack of worn American flags, this one stood out: stars, stripes and dozens of heartfelt inscriptions.
Wally and Lanie Mae Brown were recently rummaging at a Texas flea market when one particular cloth caught their attention.
“I was shocked to see dedications from Marines all over this flag to a lance corporal named 'Fred,'” Lanie Mae writes in a Facebook message. “While scouring the many heartfelt messages to this young man, simultaneously we saw 'RIP Fred' and again, simultaneously we said, 'we have to get this flag to his mama.'”
Lance Cpl. Fred L. Maciel, 20, of Spring, Texas, was killed Jan. 26, 2005, when the helicopter he was riding in crashed in Iraq.
His mother, Patsy Maciel, received the burial flag that draped his casket nine years ago. But it wasn’t until the Browns tracked her down through Facebook that she learned a second flag existed.
The tribute flag bears the final expressions from Marines in his unit.
“I can’t wait to read what they wrote,” Maciel told Houston’s KHOU-TV. “It sounds crazy, but that is a piece of my son coming back to me and I love them for that.”
The Browns, who are parents of Marines, will meet Maciel on Saturday to give her the flag.
“I was so blessed that both my boys came home in one piece, and I have a huge responsibility to her and her son to make sure it gets back to her,” Lanie Mae told Houston’s KTRK-TV.
It’s still a mystery how the flag ended up at a flea market 170 miles away from the home where it belongs.
A vendor told the Browns that she usually gets up to $30 for used flags, “but since this one has writing on it, you can have it for $5.”
Follow Jason Sickles on Twitter (@jasonsickles).