Thursday, December 21, 2006

This is a Treasure

By John Sharify Watch the video PORT TOWNSEND - Don Ely is a man of few words.

"He's a quiet man," says Ely who just turned 69.

Ely is talking about his best friend who gave him a flag he's treasured for nearly 40 years.

But it's not the flag he's currently flying on his porch. That one he picked up at the hardware store for $35. It's a flag to replace the stolen flag.

Don was still in his late 20s when his captain, his best buddy, died in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive on January 31st, 1968. It's among the saddest days in Don's long life.

Three months ago, we shared with you Don's loss of the flag. Lori Morisette watched from her home and cried.

"I cried when I saw your story (that night) regarding the special flag that was stolen from Don Ely of Port Townsend," Morisette wrote me in her e-mail.

She cried for a man she didn't know; a man whose faith in others was beginning to waver.

"It's just pure meanness," says Ely.

More than anything, Don and his wife Jeannie want that flag back. Lori Morisette wishes she had a magic wand to make that happen, to ease Don's pain.

"He was an extraordinary man," says Ely.

You might say that about Lori and her friends. Extraordinary. When a local soldier is killed, the group Lori is with called Patriot Guard Riders get on their motorcycles and go to the memorial service.

Today, they're on their way to Don's house in Port Townsend. It's a surprise.

"Are you Mr. Don Ely? It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Lori Morisette."

Lori then handed Don a flag, carefully folded.

"This cased flag is presented to you from the men and women---" serving in Iraq. After hearing about Don and his precious flag, the Air Force flew a flag in Don's honor.

Lori made it happen. That flag is now in Don's hands.

"This is a treasure. I am speechless. I don't know what to say to everyone. Thank you," says Ely holding back tears.

Just when Don Ely was beginning to lose faith, complete strangers came into his life and gave him something no one can ever take from him. Honor. And respect.

He can now put away that flag he bought at the hardware store.

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