CHEWELAH, Wash. – After two years of searching, Del Barber received the flag holding his grandfather’s memory.
Barber has been working with flag poles for about three years.
On July 4, 2016, he lined the streets of Chewelah’s city center with large American flags.
“I was trying to give (the veterans) a little bit of what they gave to us,” he said.
For about 13 holidays throughout the year, he hangs up the flags as memorials.
Families contact Barber with the names of their veterans, and he embroiders them on the material.
But just one year after he started the program, Barber lost the flag that meant the most to him.
“It was on 9-11, 2017. My grandfather’s flag came up missing,” he said.
Del had a personalized flag made for his late grandfather, Harry L. Barber.
Harry was a Purple Heart World War II veteran. He passed away in January 2017.
Just months after his death, his flag was no longer flying on the post where Del had left it.
“It hurt. It hurt deeper inside than I probably let show, because I was hoping that it would return itself,” Del said.
For two years, he would continue putting up flags honoring other veterans, even though he couldn’t do the same for his grandfather.
“We were hoping it would find its way home,” he said.
But home was not far away. Just 30 minutes down the road, in Stevens County, new homeowners found something hanging in a shed on their property.
Chrystal Southwick and her husband had just moved from Lincoln County, when they found a flag displayed on the wall.
“We found this flag in the home that we thought the previous owners had left. We reached out to the previous owners, and it was not their flag,” Chrystal said.
She and her husband saw that the flag was personalized and knew they had to find the original owners.
“I started researching to find out whose flag it was,” Chrystal said.
She sent out messages on Facebook and saw the posts Del had made about his missing flag.
“I get a phone call [while] sitting in my office one day,” Del said.
The caller asked if Del knew a Harry L. Barber.
“I said, ‘Yes,’” Del said.
Chrystal, on the other end of the line, said, “We have his flag.”
The two communicated and decided to meet in Chewelah so Del could receive the flag and set it in its post once again.
On Sunday, he and Chrystal met in front of flags Del had already begun setting up for Memorial Day. They hugged, Del with tears in his eyes knowing that his grandfather’s memorial had returned.
“I’m grateful to get it back home,” he said. “It’s nice to have him back.”
He placed the flag in the post’s hole and saluted it.
“Welcome home, soldier,” he said.