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HOUSTON — A couple who discovered a tribute flag for a fallen Marine at a Texas flea market will return it to his mother this weekend, more than nine years after he was killed in Iraq.
Lanie and Walter Brown bought the flag for $5 after finding it tucked away in the corner of a flea market in Hemphill, about 170 miles from Houston.
The flag has about two dozen messages written by other marines for Lance Cpl. Fred Maciel, who was 20 when he was died in a helicopter crash in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005.
"We'll always remember the sacrifice you made," one message says. Another says, "Thank you for being who you were ... Rest in peace."
The couple, who live in Orange, found Patsy Maciel on Facebook and messaged her that they wanted to give it to her.
Maciel said she didn't know of the flag's existence until the Browns contacted her. She had already received Fred's belongings and an official flag to drape his coffin during funeral services.
"It's a piece of my son coming back to me," said Maciel, who lives in Harris County. "It feels great and I love them for that. I don't have my son but at least I have this."
She said she cannot wait to read the messages when she meets with the couple on Saturday to receive the flag at her son's gravesite in Humble.
The Browns, who are also Marine parents, said there was no question they would try to return the flag.
"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," Lanie Brown told KTRK-TV.
Neither family knows how the flag ended up at the flea market.