SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Nebraska (KCAU) – Dozens made the drive to Siouxland Freedom Park Friday to honor a special hometown hero.
“They’re coming from three different states–I came from Arizona, because this is the right thing to do,” Arizona State Patriot Guard Riders Captain Bill ‘Wildhorse’ Wooster said.
World War II veteran Theodore Mallett died in 2007, and was interred in Dakota City. Under mysterious circumstances, an important symbol of his sacrifice disappeared.
“His casket flag was presented to his wife after he died, and I guess she took it back to maybe Texas, and over the years, it ended up in a place called Maricopa, Arizona,” Wooster said.
The forgotten flag was found by a construction worker cleaning out an abandoned rental home.
“Veterans were on the work crew and saw the flag in its case being taken out to the dumpster, and he stopped the individual taking it out to the dumpster, and he said, ‘This is wrong. We need to find a home for that,'” Wooster said.
That’s when Wooster stepped in to help. After two months of searching, Wooster found Mallett’s next of kin–returning the flag to its rightful owner with the help of other riders.
“It’s just awesome that it was found, and we were able to get it back up to where it needs to be,” Nebraska State Patriot Guard Rider Kellie Ayers said.
Mallett’s nephew says the ceremony was overwhelming.
“It made me realize how family still means something to people in this country today,” Mallett said.
Mallett says receiving this newfound keepsake is something he doesn’t take lightly.
“Nobody ever had anything to remind them of him, and now to have this, I’m, like, the one family member that has something to remember him by, and that’s pretty special,” Mallett said.
“These flags are given to the next of kin as a token of gratitude and appreciation for their service to this country. [They] should never be forgotten,” Wooster said.