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Stolen Marine Corps flag returned to veteran


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A U.S. Marine Corps flag stolen from an 83-year-old veteran who fought his way across numerous islands in the South Pacific during World War II was returned Saturday morning. The flag taken from Bob McGray's front yard last week showed up in a bag hanging from his mailbox with an anonymous note apologizing for the theft and expressing gratitude for McGray's service to his country. “I can't tell you how happy I am,” McGray said on Saturday. “I'd like to meet the guy who brought it back. I have no animosity toward him.” Friends from McGray's church group at Evangelical Free Church and the Gallatin Valley Marine Corps League built a 25-foot flagpole in McGray's front yard last spring and raised new U.S. and Marine Corps flags during a Memorial Day ceremony. But the flag flew only a few months before disappearing. A story about the theft ran in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Saturday and McGray promptly received a new flag delivered by U.S. Marines. Later in the day, though, he found the original flag at his mailbox. “I got my flag back,” said McGray. In January of 2008, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., awarded McGray the Asiatic Campaign Medal and a Silver Star for his service in the South Pacific. McGray enlisted with the Marine Corps at the age of 17 in September 1943 and fought on Iwo Jima, the Marianas Islands and Kwajalein, Saipan. He said he almost lost his life on numerous occasions, including nearly getting hit by artillery one time and another time when, on Iwo Jima, he stood to shake water off his rain poncho and an enemy soldier opened fire. “I think the guy who tried to get me was an artist,” said McGray. “He practically did the outline of my body on the poncho and never touched me. The good lord was watching over me.” McGray's wife, Flo McGray, said they live about six blocks from Montana State University and suspect the taking of the flag was a college prank. The note that accompanied the return of the flag contained an apology from “our stupid drunk” roommate, Flo McGray said. “We cannot emphasize enough the gratitude that we feel for the service that you have performed for our country,” the unsigned note said. “I personally made sure that your f lag has not touched the ground.” Bob McGray said he has an extra flag now but the first one will go back up on the flag pole. “The second one was nice, but it was the first one that all the hullabaloo was made,” he said. “I'm very proud to be a Marine.”


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