America First

ANG NEWSPAPERS - OAKLAND TRIBUNE - 5 August 2006


Family behind flag is found

Anonymous phone call leads marine consultant to find owners family

  By Hanna Tamrat, STAFF WRITER

A MARINE CONSULTANT who bought a flag that draped a Korean War veterans casket at a local flea market has located the veterans family - ending a months-long search to return it to the rightful owners.

After a story about the search ran in Tuesdays newspaper, Derek Conant said his voicemail and e-mail account were filled with positive messages in reaction to the story.

One anonymous female caller furnished a last name and a local phone number.

One call led to another and Conant, 41, dialed a Las Vegas number Wednesday from the tugboat where he was working. He reached Rose Miranda Arnold, the widow of James M. Arnold, the Korean War veteran.

You can tell from the sincerity (in) her voice that it was her, Conant said. Such a sweetheart ...

In December, Conant, who spends most of his time working on tugboats between Oakland and San Rafael, stumbled across the flag in a triangular box at a flea market at Laney College.

He recognized what it was and bought it for $12.

Conant said he bought the flag just to get it off the ground and save it from the wet weather. He also wanted to honor the man behind the flag who served his country by locating his family or someone who knew him, he said.

The box had a bronze name-plate with Arnolds name, his year of birth, 1933, and the year he died, 1999.

His weeks of unsuccessful Internet and telephone searches to find the veterans family led him to call the Oakland Tribune to ask about an obituary. No obituary could be found, but the Tribune ran a story about the quest.

Then the messages started coming.

Messages he received, including some from Hawaii, ranged anywhere from You are a heck of a guy! Were behind you all the way to thanking him for his patriotism, some offering to buy the flag box from him and others suggesting to donate it, Conant said.

But one anonymous message from a woman gave Conant a last name, Miranda, and a phone number, which later turned out to belong to Rose Arnolds brother, Tom Miranda, in San Leandro. He gave Conant his sisters number.

When Conant rang Arnold, 54, and asked about her late husband, the widow stopped short, he said. She asked him, Whats this all about?

When Arnold heard the whole story, she was shocked.

I had no idea (the flag and its box) was not in my storage, Arnold said.

Arnold was more surprised when she learned about Conants efforts to reunite the memento with family members.

This person is astonishing, Arnold said. Who knows what would have happened to it, if he had not found it ... I am happy he was able to contact me.

She sent Arnold a letter of gratitude by e-mail.

Thank you so much for your patriotism. If it were not for that, my flag would have been missing forever and I would not ever have known what happened to it. It would have caused me sorrow for the rest of my life.

Heres what she thinks happened to the flag: When her husband died, Arnold moved from Oakland to Las Vegas with her son.

In 2005, when her son moved back to Oakland, Arnold said he must have accidentally loaded the flag-box in his U-Haul truck.

He apparently kept his items, including the flag, in a storage unit. But he couldnt keep up the storage fees and contents of the unit were auctioned off, she said.

Neither Arnold, nor her son, knew the flag was in the pile.

My instincts were right on the mark, Conant said.

When Conant first saw the flag-box and the bronze name plate, he said he was convinced it did not belong at the flea market.

Arnold had been handed the folded flag at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, where her husband was buried, she said.

Arnold put the flag in the box she special ordered from a catalog and which she had engraved:
James M. Arnold 1933-1999

Rose and James Arnold did not have children together. The war veteran has five children from a previous marriage living scattered around the nation, including one in Oakland, and Rose Arnold has two, she said.

She said she was amazed at how it all came to a full circle.

Arnold intends to come to California next week on a visit and plans are being made to return the flag to her.

Friends and family members in the Bay Area have offered to receive the box on her behalf, but she wanted Conant to directly hand it to her, she said.

If I had gone through my belongings and if I had not found my flag, I would have been upset, she said.

According to her e-mail message, Arnold hopes to find the anonymous person who provided her brothers number, so she can thank her too.

Conant is also looking forward to meeting with Arnold.

It is wonderful I got closure to this, he said.


E-mail Hanna Tamrat at htamrat@angnewspapers.com.

More about this story:
  •      1 August 2006  -  Oaklander on mission to save 'veteran's soul'
  •      5 August 2006  -  Family behind flag is found
  •      19 August 2006  -  Veteran's flag returned to family at last

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