It has not seen war. It is not an antique. It is a standard American flag patch, drab green, cotton, available for a few dollars on the Internet. • But for Brian Boland, it represented a bond rooted in shared sacrifice, military history and love of country.
You robbed me. But you have no idea what you actually stole. You went into my jeep and took my flight bag and a green flight jacket. I am not so concerned about the bag …
Coast Guard Lt. Brian Boland, 29, wrote those words on the "lost and found" section of Craigslist on March 23.
The bag disappeared on the night of March 21. It was in Boland's Jeep Wrangler in front of his townhouse on Yacht Club Lane, Pinellas County deputies said. The jacket hung on the handles of the rugged flight bag. The Jeep showed no signs of forced entry, so deputies think Boland may have left his door unlocked.
Gone, too, were a flight helmet and flight suit in the bag, a global positioning system and the vehicle's owner's manual in the glove compartment, a change of clothes, razors, toiletries and beef jerky. All of which mean little to Boland.
To you, this probably means nothing, but to me it means everything. You see, not only does that flag represent the country that I serve, but it also came off of one my dad's old flight suits.
Three years ago, Boland found the cotton patch rummaging through his parents' attic during a trip home. Like his father, he left home to begin his military training out of high school.
You see, like me, he was a military pilot as well. In a monetary sense, that flag is worth next to nothing. But to me, there is nothing that could replace what the flag signifies.
Retired Navy Capt. James "Bookie" Boland, 59, of Virginia wore it on his sleeve for two years in the 1990s. The elder Boland believes he bought the 2- by 3-inch drab olive flag aboard one of the ships where he flew Sea Sprite SH2F helicopters.
The son, who is on active duty flying HC-130 airplanes out of Air Station Clearwater, wore it on his sleeve during a recent mission to Haiti to transport search teams, Pampers and bottled water. He wore it on his sleeve the day his crew spotted a sailboat painted battleship gray fleeing toward Mexico. On board were Paul Martikainen and his 3-year-old son, Luke Finch. Martikainen has pleaded guilty to a child abduction charge.
Boland wore it on countless other rescue missions to the Caribbean and South America, to places, he noted, that don't enjoy our security or freedom.
I don't expect you to understand what the American flag means to someone like me. I don't expect you to understand sacrifice, hard work, and love of one's country.
There are no suspects in the case. Sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said detectives believe three other vehicles were burglarized on the same night in Tierra Verde. Boland said he was told that without a serial number, the jacket will be difficult to trace.
Boland is appealing to a stranger's humanity.
… You can understand the bond between father and son. And hopefully you can understand how much something passed down from one generation to another can represent.
Enjoy the bag and my clothes that you stole. But if you have even the slightest bit of decency, bring me back my jacket.
Researchers Carolyn Edds and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Reach Luis Perez at [email protected] or (727) 892-2271.