Video captured the moment a Utah sanitation worker, who is a Marine Corps veteran, retrieved an American flag from a garbage can and proceeded to fold it with dignity at the side of his truck.
The flag rescue occurred on April 19 in Emery County after a windstorm blew through the area and sent Brooke Cowley’s yard in disarray, KSL reported. Cowley collected the damaged items from her yard, including the flag, and paced them in the trash. Later in the day, she and her children spotted their garbage man, Don Gardner, retrieving the flag from the trash can before diligently folding it by his truck. Cowley took a video of the touching moment.
“He pulls up, he gets out of his truck, and I’m thinking, ‘What is he doing?,’” Cowley told KSTU. “And then immediately, I was so embarrassed, like, oh my gosh, I was petrified, because I’m married to a veteran. What am I doing?”
Gardner, a Marine Corps veteran, said he was upholding an oath he took up years ago.
“I took an oath once to defend this country and our flag, and I still do,” he told KSTU. “A lot of people died protecting that flag and fighting under that flag. A lot of blood’s been shed so that we have the freedoms that we have today.”
“I’ve always been a big fan of our country,” Gardner told KSL. “I served in the Marine Corps, and my family has a long history of military service. I also grew up watching folks here in Emery County serve — many in Vietnam.”
The Emery County mother shared her video on her Facebook account, wanting to show her community Gardner’s care for old glory. The following week, the family gifted the veteran a challenge coin, Fox News reported.
In his 11 years as a sanitation worker, Gardner has pulled at least 12 flags from garbage bins and given them proper retirements, according to KTSU.
“Makes me mad,” he said. “I get angry. Sometimes it’s a mistake. Most of the time, it’s on purpose. I have a problem with that, so I just take it out, take care of it.”
The Department of Defense notes:
Many state and county government offices and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts have flag disposal boxes outside of their buildings. Police stations also collect them. Once the disposal boxes are full, various organizations such as American Legions, VFWs and the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts collect the flags and hold flag retirement ceremonies.
“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,” the U.S. Flag Code states.
Gardner is a member of his local American Legion post, which holds an annual flag-burning ceremony, according to KTSU.