A U.S. flag that had been draped the casket of a World War II veteran was recovered in Missouri after being stolen from upstate New York, much to the joy of the late serviceman’s daughter.
Cathy Scoppo, 60, displayed the flag at the campground she manages over Memorial Day weekend to honor her father, Corporal Michael Cowley, authorities said.
Scoppo and her family held the flag in the highest esteem, ever since it was laid across her dad’s casket in 1969. She was just 14 when her father died of cancer.
“That flag was on his casket, it was folded and presented to my mother at the funeral," Scoppo said, police wrote in a release.
But Scoppo’s world was shattered when she discovered the flag had been stolen.
“My father. Father to 5 wonderful children. This is the man that was honored with a flag draped over his casket when he passed. This flag was passed on to me by my mother. This is the flag that was stolen as it was displayed to honor him for Memorial Day,” she wrote on Facebook, pleading for information about the incident.
A tipster who read Scoppo’s post told her that the person who took the flag came from Willard, Missouri, where authorities took up the search for the beloved Old Glory.
Police interviewed a 16-year-old boy thought to have taken the flag who initially said the flag was still at the camp, sending Scoppo and her family scrambling to find it.
“The boy sent us on a wild goose chase, gave us a map saying this is where it is in the campground and we went out searching,” Scoppo said.
After searching for hours, police went back to the boy, who allegedly confessed to bringing it to Missouri and turned it over to cops.
“Any Willard officer would have responded in the same way I did. What we do here is help people but I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to help out this family,” said Corporal Steve Purdy of Willard Police, who tracked down the flag.
The Stars and Stripes is on its way back to Scoppo and her family, who expressed their gratitude for the happy ending.
“Our whole family is rejoicing! It is especially heart-warming to our young members who have served or presently are serving in the military and are continuing this proud tradition!” family member Richard Cowley wrote on Facebook.
“It was amazing, the work they put into it,” Scoppo said. “I can't thank either one of them enough. The officers in Missouri treated it with the respect it deserves and folded it back the way it was folded I'd love to give them all a hug. And I'm giving Corporal Purdy a long-distance hug.”
Scoppo’s friends also set out to right the wrong, surprising the heartbroken woman with a replacement flag in honor of her dad.
“They took the time to not only find out what the military would replace my father's flag with but went ahead and got it. They gave it to me along with a certification of the flag and a framed meaning of the 13 folds of the flag. Not only will I soon have Dad's flag back but I have a very special one to given to me with the love of our friends!” she wrote on Facebook.
The case has been referred to the juvenile division, police said. It is unclear if the teen will face charges.