Shoppers who frequent garage sales and flea markets know their findings can be hit or miss, but when Walter Brown stumbled upon an old American flag that had been written all over, he knew it was something special. In a remarkable story, a misplaced flag, intended for the family of a fallen Marine, was reunited with the lance corporal’s mother.
Walter and his wife Lanie knew immediately that there was more to this flag and its story, so he paid the $5 for it and got to work tracking down its rightful owner.
He knew that the flag was a tribute for a fallen Marine, and discovered the heartfelt messages from military officers was meant for Lance Cpl. Fred Maciel. Walter’s son is a Marine as well, so the flag was especially meaningful.
Walter and Lanie discovered that the flag had been lost for 9 years when Fred passed away and it was clear they had to not only get it into Fred’s family’s hands, but that hand delivering it was the only option for something so special.
Lanie presented the flag to Fred’s mother, Patsy Maciel, at her son’s grave, telling her: “Patsy, our family feels so honored to have been chosen to find this flag… Thank you for sharing this piece of your boy with us.”
A crowd of family members, friends and Patriot Guard Riders were on hand for presentation of the special honor. Patsy said of the special tribute flag honoring her son, “It’ll be with me ’til I die.”
Lance Cpl. Fred Maciel died in a helicopter crash that killed 31 American servicemen, 220 miles west of Baghdad during a severe sandstorm.
Fred’s mother said of the moment she received the horrible news about him: “I was crushed,” adding, “I didn’t know how to make memories without my son.”
While it took her years to overcome the huge loss, it was the out-of-left-field message she received a few weeks ago from Lanie and Walter’s daughter that lifted her spirits. She was told they had the tribute flag that Fred’s platoon members had made in his honor and they wanted to get it to her.
Among the messages written on the flag were: “Fred, you were a good Marine and we will always remember you” and “Hey CHEEKS, wherever you are, make sure you watch over us.”
Lanie explained, “The rank is specific to the Marines, that’s what caught our eye” and they asked their son, also a Marine, what it meant. They were told it was a “tribute flag,” signed by the members of the fallen Marine’s platoon.
Lanie explained why they were compelled to personally bring the flag to Patsy, sharing: “It was a simple twist of fate, it wasn’t someone else finding a flag meant for me and my husband, not the other way around.”
Fred’s cousin, Lee Nelson, remarked how thankful they were to receive the flag, saying, “It was amazing to come to my family like this. It’s funny how things work out.”
Patsy shared how amazing this gift was, explaining: “This is a piece of my son I’m getting back. It’s a great feeling.”