Finding signed American flag for $5 at flea market, man returns it to the family of fallen Marine

Walter Brown and his wife Lanie were at a flea market in Hemphill, Texas in 2014, hoping to find some unique treasures. The couple, who have a son and son-in-law in the Marines, stumbled upon a stack of American flags in the first room they entered.

As Walter sifted through them, he called out to Lanie, urging her to come and see one particular flag that caught his eye. This flag had writing all over the stripes, unlike any of the other flags that were priced between $15 and $30.

“We’ll always remember the sacrifice you made. God Bless,” someone had written on the flag.

“I promise we will see each other again,” read another message.

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Lanie recalls that, unlike the other flags, this one didn’t have a price tag. “If they asked us for $100 we would have given them a $100 bill. It was priceless to us because we knew it meant something,” she said. Fortunately, the seller only wanted $5, so the Browns bought the flag and took it home.

Once they got home, the Brown family began to investigate the flag’s origin. Their son soon realized that the $5 flag was worth much more. It was a tribute flag signed by the members of a fallen Marine’s platoon, and it wasn’t with that Marine’s family, where it belonged. The Browns were determined to find out the story behind the flag and return it to its rightful owner.

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After some research, the Browns discovered that the flag belonged to Lance Cpl. Fred Maciel, who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in January 2005. The flag, with heartfelt messages from his fellow Marines, was supposed to be with his family, but for some reason, it wasn’t.

Brown’s children found Fred’s mother, Patsy Maciel, on Facebook and sent her a message. She contacted the Brown family immediately and the two talked on the phone for an hour, arranging to meet at her son’s grave outside of Houston. When the two families met at Fred’s gravesite, the Browns handed over the signed flag.

For Patsy Maciel, the moment gave her “this feeling of peace.” She had recently confessed to her sister that she was starting to forget what her son looked like, but now she believed this was a sign from him telling her she would never forget.

“His dream was to be a Marine, and I had to let him do that. I’m proud of him, that he died doing what he loved,” Patsy said, grateful for the Browns’ efforts in returning the priceless flag.