Family finds fallen Marine's tribute flag, returning it to his mother

More than nine years after her son was killed in Iraq, a northeast Harris County mother will receive a tribute flag to him she never knew about
More than nine years after her son was killed in Iraq, a northeast Harris County mother will receive a tribute flag to him she never knew about.

"It's all I think of right now. I can't think of anything else," said Patsy Maciel in anticipation of Saturday.

Her son, Marine Lance Corporal Fred Lee Maciel, 20, was killed in a helicopter crash in Fallujah, Iraq in 2005. Then, Patsy Maciel received his belongings and an official flag to drape his coffin during funeral services. But she never knew there was another flag until Lanie and Walter Brown of Orange, Texas found it at a flea market in East Texas.

"We were like oh my God! Why wasn't this with the man's mother? We need to get it back to her," Lanie Brown explained.

They call it a tribute flag, and on it are heartfelt messages from surviving members of Fred's unit. The Browns, Marine parents themselves, bought at a discounted price of $5 because of the writing and knew what they had to do.

"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," Brown said.

So after some investigating on social media, the Browns connected with Patsy Maciel.

"One Marine family to another," said Maciel.

On Saturday, at Calvary Hill Cemetery where Fred is buried, Maciel will meet the Browns, whom she calls "awesome people" and receive the flag that honors her son.

"It's a piece of my son coming back to me. It feels great and I love them for that. I don't have my son but at least I have this," she said.

So for a Marine killed in Iraq who was stationed in Hawaii, how did the flag get to the flea market in East Texas? The best explanation is that it was among belongings in an unclaimed storage unit the flea market had bought.
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