(KHOU/CNN) — When Lance Cpl. Fred Maciel died in 2005 in Iraq, a specially signed American flag that was supposed to be given to his family, but somehow it got lost.
But thanks to a Texas couple, the flag finally made it back to his family on Sunday.
Maciel’s mother wasn’t expecting a ceremony. She wasn’t expecting a salute from dozens of strangers.
Nine-and-a-half years after her son’s death in Fallujah, his flag finally made it home. On it are heartfelt messages written by Maciel’s fellow Marines.
The tribute was meant to go to his family, but somehow got lost. That is, until Walter Brown found it at a flea market.
“The lady said it’s five dollars,” Brown said. “She said ‘it has been written on, you know that.’ I said that’s OK, I’ll go ahead and buy it.”
With his own son a Marine, Brown read the messages and knew he had to get the flag back home.
“It’s a lot deeper than just putting it in the mailbox and shipping it over. It had to be hand delivered,” he said.
Brown tracked down Patsy Maciel and at a ceremony in Houston, his wife personally put the flag into the mother’s arms.
“I got peace in my heart,” Maciel said. “You know, I’m happy. This is all for my son. Nobody forgot my son.”
So where was that flag all this time? Nobody knows. The flea market buys items from abandoned mini-storage units, so the flag might have ended up forgotten in one of those units.