While driving home Tuesday morning, Joseph Mascolino was forced to swerve out of a roadway in the southwest valley.
“Was that a flag?” he thought to himself, pressing on the brakes.
Mascolino said he pulled over and put his car in park without thinking twice.
As he waited for traffic to clear near Buffalo Drive and Russell Road, Mascolino, who had grown up in a military family, had an idea of what the triangle-shaped case could mean.
During the next red light, he sprinted toward the box, confirming his suspicions. A veteran had likely died, and the burial flag never made it home with the family.
“Oh, thank God,” he recalled saying aloud after examining the memorial case. The American flag, protected only by the box and a sheet of glass, had not touched the ground.
When a veteran who has served honorably dies, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides a flag to the family as a keepsake. During the funeral, the burial flag is folded into a triangle. But if the flag is lost, damaged or stolen, the VA, by law, cannot issue a replacement.
“So when I saw it, I knew I had to do something to find the family,” Mascolino told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “because I know this symbolizes their loved one.”
As of Christmas Eve, Mascolino’s Facebook post asking for the public’s help had garnered nearly 300 shares. He said he wants to find the family before the holidays pass.
“You know, not to sound corny, but I’m hoping for a Christmas miracle,” he said Saturday, looking down at the flag. “I figured Vegas is a big city but small town, so maybe somebody will know somebody who lost a flag.”
Mascolino can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he said he is willing to deliver or have the flag shipped to the veteran’s family.
Who is eligible for a burial flag
— Veteran who served during wartime
— Veteran who died on active duty after May 27, 1941
— Veteran who served after Jan. 31, 1955
— Peacetime veteran who was discharged or released before June 27, 1950, after serving at least one enlistment, or for a disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty
— Certain persons who served in the organized military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines while in service of the U.S. Armed Forces and who died on or after April 25, 1951
— Certain former members of the Selected Reserves
For more information, the public may call 1-800-827-1000.
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs