HOUSTON - Tucked away in the corner at a flea market in Hemphill, Texas, about a 170 miles away from Houston, Lanie and Walter Brown found a flag with writing on it.
There are about two dozen messages written on it, one said, "We'll always remember the sacrifice you made," and another read, "Thank you for being who you were...Rest in peace."
"We realized it was a flag intended for a fallen Marine," said Lanie Brown. "We knew we had to take it home with us."
All of the other flags for sale were selling for $15 to $30, but this one didn't have a price on it.
"She said because it had writing on it we could have it for $5," Brown told Local 2. "We'd have paid whatever she asked for it. It's priceless."
The Browns knew it was a tribute flag and from the messages on it, they could tell the fallen Marine's name was Lance Cpl. Fred Maciel. They used the Internet to search for his family and thanks to Facebook, they located his mother near Houston. The Browns live near Beaumont, about two hours away.
"I never knew it existed and here is this flag, in a flea market over two hours away from me," Patsy Maciel said. "Nobody knows how it got there."
Patsy Maciel and the Browns have spoke on the phone a few times but have never met in person. All that is about to change. On Saturday, the two families are going to meet at Maciel's gravesite in Humble. His mom will finally get the tribute flag she should have gotten almost a decade ago.
"I can't wait to read what they wrote," said Maciel. That's my son and I'm proud of my son."
Fred Maciel died in a helicopter crash in Fallujah in 2005. He was only 20 years old.
"He told me he was born to be a Marine," Maciel said. "He died doing what he loved. I finally had to accept that."
The Browns feel a special connection to the Maciels. Lanie and Walter's son and son-in-law are both Marines. Coincidentally, their son-in-law was in Iraq the same time Maciel was.
"When you're a Marine mom or Marine dad, all other Marine moms and dads are your brothers and sisters, and all Marine kids are your kids, too," Brown said.
Both families are looking forward to finally meeting face to face Saturday.
"We felt an immediate need and responsibility to get this flag back to them," Brown said. "It's kind of like a piece of my son. I don't know if that sounds crazy but it's a piece of my son coming back to me."
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