Gel Jamlang for Reader's Digest
One early morning last winter, someone broke into Shawn Marceau’s truck. That wasn’t particularly unusual—thieves had already hit him three times in recent months, even as the truck was parked outside his home in White Swan, Washington. This time they made off with a laptop, some riflescopes, and, unbeknownst to Marceau at the time, an American flag.
But this wasn’t just any flag. It had belonged to his son, 22-year-old Marine lance corporal Joe Jackson. The flag had been signed by each member of Jackson’s platoon at the beginning of their deployment and had hung over his bed for his entire tour of duty in Afghanistan. Jackson was on foot patrol in Helmand province in 2011 when he stepped on an improvised bomb and was killed. His father frequently took the flag to memorials and veterans’ events to share his son’s story. It wasn’t until several weeks after the break-in, when he was getting organized for an annual memorial rifle shoot honoring Jackson, that Marceau realized the neatly folded flag was gone. Check out these gorgeous American flag pictures that are sure to make you feel patriotic.
“I was very upset—in a rage,” he told Fox & Friends, “because I lost it.”
Marceau reached out to friends and family, asking them to search for the flag wherever they could—at pawn shops, secondhand stores, even the local Goodwill. Nothing. He went to the rifle memorial, on April 21, without the flag.
In a last-ditch effort, the heartbroken father took to Facebook. “Would appreciate it if all my friends could share this note. This American flag was stolen out of my truck,” he wrote, including a photo of the flag. “Any information would be great. No questions asked.”
By the next morning, on May 5, his post had been shared around 2,000 times. By May 7, there were around 40,000 reposts. “I couldn’t believe it,” says Marceau. “There were so many comments I couldn’t keep up.” Unfortunately, the flag was still nowhere to be found.
Soon enough, there were other flags. A 9/11 firefighter sent one to Marceau signed by dozens of his colleagues, many of whom had responded at the World Trade Center. A Special Forces sergeant major sent a flag he’d taken with him on missions around the world, from Iwo Jima to Afghanistan. Marceau, a retired Marine himself and the son and grandson of veterans, cherished these gifts while continuing to pray for the return of Jackson’s flag. Read about what American troops wish you knew about shipping out, coming home, and how their lives change.
Still waiting for those prayers to be answered, Marceau went about his routine as normal. On Tuesday, July 3, he visited his son’s grave, just as he has every Tuesday since Jackson was buried. “It’s religion,” he says. “It’s my time to meditate and pray and get ready for the week.”
When he got to Jackson’s grave that morning, there was something there: a flag. Marceau didn’t let himself get too excited. People had gifted him so many flags in the weeks prior that he figured this was just another keepsake that had belonged to someone else. But when he got closer, he noticed the signatures—black ink on each of the white stripes. This was his son’s flag.
“It was pretty amazing,” he says.
There was also some mystery. Whoever had returned the flag left no note, and as of yet, no one has stepped forward to say he or she returned it. Did the thief bring it back? Did a Good Samaritan find it in a thrift shop? Marceau has decided not to speculate.
“For me, it’s just a miracle,” he says. “It’s God. That’s who put it there.” Next, find out some more incredibly touching ways people have said “thank you” to veterans.