TACOMA, Wash. — The sign says, “Please return my flag, sentimental to me. I brought it back from Iraq. The bottom four stripes have my buddy’s blood on them.”
“This was very important to him,” said Kim Phillips, who lives in Tacoma. She said veteran Nolan Gomez was doing some yard work when someone stole his American flag.
The flag usually flies on the back of Gomez's truck.
“It’s showing that I have pride for what I’ve done. And I love my country, matter what I’ve been through - I love my country and I want everybody to see that,” Gomez said.
He got the flag in 2007 while deployed in Iraq. He said a boy there gave it to him.
“I was actually shocked. It was his country we were in and he gave me an American flag,” Gomez said.
He’s kept it with him ever since.
And in Iraq, when a roadside bomb blew up, injuring him and his team, he reached for the flag.
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“I dropped to my knees and my friend is screaming,” Gomez said.
He tried to use the flag as a tourniquet. His friend – who is from Lakewood – laost his legs.
“He came back out here and committed suicide,” Gomez said. “Some horrific things that have happened, and that flag has always been there.”
Gomez also suffers from PTSD.
“It’s bad, I can’t really look at you guys too much, it’s hard, really hard,” he said.
Gomez said when he came back from the errand recently, and discovered the flag gone, it felt like a piece of him disappeared.
“He went to get gas or whatever, came back, it was gone,” Phillips said.
Only after it went missing did Phillips learn its significance.
“That came back from the war with him and it was very important to him and that was his buddy’s blood on the bottom,” Phillips said, tearing up.
She said her family is also military, and her brother served in the front lines during the Vietnam War.
She decided she had to help make the sign in hopes whoever took it would see it.
Her neighbor took a photo of that sign and posted it in a Pierce County community page, where it’s been shared hundreds of times.
“It’s crazy, everybody is mad,” said friend Jill Thurman.
Since the post, multiple families have stepped up, offering their family’s American flags to the veteran.
“Yesterday, four boys came over, they folded it up and said this is our uncle’s flag, and we want to give it to you to replace the one you lost,” Phillips said.
KIRO7 was there as Gomez got the flag.
“Thank you, I’ll keep it forever, I promise you I will. Thank you so much, it means a lot it really does. It’s hard,” Gomez said, choking up. “It means everything. Feelings I can’t even grasp to explain them. Something I’ll think about forever – there still is good people out here.”
It’s something incredible that came out of something heartbreaking, but they’re still hoping to help Gomez get his flag back.
“That’s defending us, all of us, our freedom. And he was injured in the war. So it’s another reason to get it back to him. If anyone knows where to look,” Phillips said.
“If you can see my hurt or feel my pain, just know I’m hurting for it,” Gomez said. “I just pray whoever has that flag can find it in them as a human, and as a god-fearing American to turn it back in.”
Some distinct features of the flag – there are some faded light-brown spots underneath the stars, from the blood of Gomez’s friend. The flag pole is a yellow broom handle, with wire around it.
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