It’s Back! Thief Returns Flag that Covered Vietnam Veteran’s Casket
NORTH WILDWOOD — An American flag stolen on the Fourth of July from the family of Vietnam veteran Patrick Cocoran, who died during the war, has been returned.
North Wildwood mayor Patrick Rosenello said a woman in her 20s knocked on the door of the retired Philadelphia police officer who lives next door to the Cocoran family's summer home, where the flag is flown every year — usually on Memorial Day, but on Independence Day this year because of rainy weather in May.
"She apologized, said, 'We shouldn't have taken this. This belongs to you,' and literally ran away," Rosenello said.
The flag, which was draped over 19-year-old Navy Seaman Patrick Corcoran's casket, was given his family during his funeral. Corcoran and 73 other sailors were killed in 1969 when the USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.
Corcoran's body was never found.
"The flag is in perfect condition. They were able to verify it's the correct flag because theirs had something around one of the gromets like a deformity that matched the actual flag," Rosenello said. "The message about the importance of the flag got out there and someone did the right thing for a change."
The Corcoran family plans to raise the flag on Wednesday afternoon.
Joe Griffes, a Vietnam veteran who hosts a radio show dedicated to veterans on Ocean City radio said station WIBG-AM, said the flag will fly again on Memorial Day with an honor guard. “Some veterans volunteered to guard that flag during the time it’s flying,” Griffes said.
“We have nothing of Patrick’s,” his brother, Tom Corcoran said at a press conference earlier this month. “There were no dog tags, there is no body. The connection to our brother Patrick is a flag.”