Digging around and checking out some second-hand stuff is always an interesting experience. Not only will things be cheaper (and sometimes even brand-new!), you also have the added bonus of it having some history behind it.

And for some people, that sort of unknown history and connection to the past is often something that attracts them.

After all, time tends to destroy any physical connection to our past – being able to hold an item in your hand that has its own story to tell is fascinating!

The story behind this flag, however, is a heartbreaking one.

Walter Brown and his wife, Lanie, were browsing the wares at a flea market when they came across a pile of flags.

The couple had been checking out the market located near Hemphill, Texas in order to get Lanie a much-needed holster for her new pistol, a Walter 22.

Their shopping goal that day, however, took a backseat to what they found next.

While Lanie checked out some holsters she was interested in, Walter was sifting through the pile of flags out of a combination of curiosity and boredom.

It was here he found something interesting – an old flag whose white stripes were covered in scribbles, all from different hands.

This caught Walter’s attention, and he called his wife over to check out this interesting find.

As it turned out, this flag was no ordinary flag. On it were messages that had been presumably written for a lance corporal that had passed away.

With a son and a son-in-law both serving in the Marines, it was easy for Lanie to realize that the receiver of this flag must have a Marine as well, as the addressed rank was specific to them.

Her sons later explained to the couple that this was something called a “tribute flag” – a flag that, after being signed by everyone else in this person’s platoon, should have been given to the fallen Marine’s family.

So what was it doing here, being sold at a flea market?

The Browns couldn’t simply just let this be – this belonged to a grieving family out there, and it ought to be returned to them as soon as possible.

With some help and hard work, they managed to find out that the flag belonged to a 20-year-old Fred Lee Maciel, who had died tragically at such a young age when serving at the frontlines in Iraq in the year of 2005.

Armed with this information, the duo then set out to track down his family.

After learning that she lost her son in a helicopter crash years ago, Patsy Maciel was surprised to hear from Lanie and Walter.

She was even more surprised that they have something important for her and insisted that it had to be given to her in person.

Just what could these total strangers have to offer her?

To her surprise, it was something that turned out to be incredibly important to her – her son’s tribute flag.

It was a closure she never thought she would receive, and it was all thanks to the love and empathy of a pair of strangers.