Flag found in the middle of Prince George’s County road had fallen off veteran’s truck

Prince George’s County police Chief Hank Stawinski and William Holley
Prince George’s County police Chief Hank Stawinski poses with William Holley after the flag’s return Tuesday. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

Nearly two weeks after it was found on a busy Prince George’s County, Maryland, road, an American flag has been returned to its owner, a Vietnam veteran.

It turns out that the flag had fallen from a truck “filled to the brim with boxes and household items”  while William Holley was moving, Prince George’s County police said in a statement Tuesday.

The story began July 17, when passerby Tom Jarrett found the flag — folded and in a shattered display case — in the middle of Central Avenue.

Nearby, another driver had pulled up next to Holley’s truck and told him that something had fallen off.

“Me and my grandson were looking for it. And since it wasn’t there, we figured somebody stopped, picked it up and just drove off with it,” said Holley, 79, during a Tuesday ceremony in which police returned the flag to him.

Marcellus Herod
The story behind the flag centers on Marcellus Herod. (Courtesy Prince George’s County police)

News of the flag’s discovery had spread in the media after Jarrett took it to the police department, and Holley’s daughter saw a local news report.

“I hadn’t told her that I’d lost the flag,” the Largo resident recalled during the ceremony. “But she called me and said, ‘Do you have Uncle Morris’ flag?’ I said, ‘No, it fell of the truck.'”

The story behind the flag centers on Marcellus Herod.

The uncle of Holley’s late wife fought in Germany during World War I under French command, Holley told reporters, because “they didn’t allow blacks to serve with white troops.” The family was given the flag after Herod had passed.

“As fellow veterans, we understand the story behind this flag, and what it stands for,” Holley said.

Hundreds of thousands of African Americans served in World War I, county police Chief Hank Stawinski said Tuesday, “and Mr. Herod is part of why we have the privilege of serving in America now.”

After the short ceremony Tuesday, police spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan asked Holley what that World War I veteran might be thinking up in heaven.

“Probably saluting us,” Holley replied.

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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