What does the American flag mean to you? For Marines like 92-year-old Howard Banks, it’s simple. It’s the symbol of the nation -- A nation that hundreds of thousands of men and women have died for. Unfortunately not every American respects the flag or veterans the way they should.
Sadly, the American flag and Marine Corps flag that fly in Banks’ front yard have been vandalized in the past. He says vandals have previously shredded them and left them in a ditch.
So when this World War II veteran heard noises coming from the flagpole, he was quick to defend them. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way,” he told FOX 4.
But he can’t see -- He was blinded by a flare at Iwo Jima -- and the vandals pushed him to the ground before running away.
Police are currently investigating the attack and Kaufman County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information that could lead to an arrest.
In the meantime, a group of Marines who toured Iraq and Afghanistan decided they had to meet Banks after hearing the story.
"We need to respect our flag. That is a symbol of our country. It is a symbol of what we stand for as a beacon of hope for liberty in this world,” said Michael Jernigan, a Corporal in the U.S. Marines and with the Blinded American Veterans Foundation.
They shared stories of service, and presented him with two brand new flags and an honor flight to Washington DC to visit the World War II Memorial.
"It's a shame. You know, this guy is living history. He's a national treasure. People should be lined up on his porch to talk to him, not ripping his flags down," said Kory Ryan with Honor Flight Austin.
Watch the video to see what the flag means to this Marine.