America First


Veteran's flag returned to family at last

  By Hanna Tamrat, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND - Rose Arnold, 54, relived a brief moment of the funeral of her husband, a Korean War veteran, Tuesday when a man she had never met handed her the American flag which had covered her husband's funeral casket seven years ago.

Except this time, she was not sad.

"I'm happy you are the one who found (the flag)," she told Derek Conant, a marine consultant from Oakland who bought the flag months ago at a Laney College flea market.

Until Conant contacted her in Las Vegas, Arnold was not aware the flag was missing from her storage unit, she said.

The two finally met at Merritt Restaurant & Bakery near Lake Merritt, which coincidentally rose to the occasion with its patriotic summerlong decorations.

"I am relieved and honored that I was able to accomplish this," Conant said after he gave Arnold the flag.
Veteran's flag returned to family at last
Derek Conant & Associates - America First ROSE ARNOLD, (left) of Las Vegas, receives the flag that was draped over the funeral casket of her husband, James, in 1999. She was not aware the flag was missing until Oakland resident Derek Conant (right) called saying he bought it at a flea market in the hopes to reunite it with the veteran's family. (D. Ross Cameron - Staff) Derek Conant & Associates - America First

Sometime in December, Conant, 41, noticed the flag inside a triangle-shaped box on the ground at a flea market. He realized it held the funeral flag of an American veteran. He felt compelled to buy it, believing it did not belong there and hoping to find any of the soldier's survivors, he said.

After months of Internet and telephone searches, Conant located the widow in Las Vegas. Someone called Conant with a contact number after a story about the search ran in this newspaper earlier this month.

Arnold had flown in this week on a family visit from Las Vegas where she moved after her husband died, she said.

She believes her son accidentally loaded the flag along with his belongings into a U-Haul truck when he moved back to California last year.

The flag got auctioned off with other items in her son's storage unit and ended up at the flea market. Neither she nor her son knew it was in that pile.

Her late husband James M. Arnold served as a U.S. Army Corporal in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954.

"He didn't talk too much about the war," Rose Arnold said.

All the veteran told her was that he was a gunner and he also learned how to cook. Born in Palestine, Ark., in 1933, Arnold was only 19 when he went to war.

Rose Arnold reflected Tuesday on the turn of events that led to her meeting with Conant and getting back the flag honoring her late husband, thanks to the determined efforts of a patriotic stranger.

"This is what America is all about," she said.

E-mail Hanna Tamrat at

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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