I had a "what can you do?" moment at Deseret Industries the other day.
The answer: Nothing.
What I found is what you see here: An American flag with the medals and insignia of an American soldier.
The flag is in one of those expensive wooden cases they make for flags to rest in a place of honor. The lid shows sergeant chevrons, the rank of the soldier. There are a couple of medals. There's a pin indicating the soldier was Airborne.
From what the people at the DI told me, that soldier was killed in Vietnam. If true, that means this flag, at one time, lay over a soldier's coffin.
And now it's in a thrift store. Price: $120. Some medals that came in with it, including a Purple Heart, have already been sold.
Why is a burial flag in a thrift store? I can only speculate.
Maybe the soldier was single when he died. Maybe he was an only son. Maybe this flag, which had obviously been treasured, was owned by his parents. When they died, there was nobody else to take it.
Someone cleaned out the house and shipped stuff to the DI. I understand how dear some objects are to some people. A flag like this, to the survivors of that soldier, would have been gold. The story of that soldier, the honor of his memory, is something that should not be lost. I was tempted to buy the flag, but that's a lot of money.
Jerry "Shorty" Nye, an employee of the Ogden Deseret Industries who was working at the case for collectibles, said it's a sad situation, but there's nothing the store can do. He's right. They aren't running a museum.
"His last name was Sorensen," said Shorty. "He died Dec. 24, 1972. That was on the paperwork that came with it."
Where is that paperwork? "We had to dispose of that. It contained personal information," he said.
Kudos to the DI for protecting personal information, but this makes it very hard to at least preserve the story behind the flag.
A search of the database for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. shows seven guys with the last name "Sorensen," and one spelled "Sorenson," died in Vietnam. None died Dec. 24, 1972. Only one is a sergeant, a kid from Lehi who was a member of the 101st Airborne. He died in August 1970.
Maybe the date Shorty remembers is from some other item on the flag's paperwork? I have no clue.
Is the family local? I checked obituaries in the newspaper near Lehi and in our paper for people named Sorensen. None in the last year mentions anyone "preceded in death by" and the soldier's name I found.
I called my friend Dennis Howland, state commander of the VFW.
"It burns my butt, a burial flag on sale," Dennis said. "That was somebody's father, son, brother. What price can you put on that?"
"What I wish people would do is, if it's not significant to them any more, they would give it to the VFW," he said. "We have an archive, a display. If they would give it to the VFW, we would make sure it gets treated respectfully."
Friday is Veterans Day. You'll hear a lot of talk about "don't forget veterans."
We shouldn't. So if you happen to see a memory of one about to be discarded, do something. If you only put it in a box and drop it off at the local VFW post, that's enough.
Editor's note: The framed flag and medals set was sold Monday, according to a DI sales clerk.