Derek Duke had flown the same American flag outside his Statesboro home for the past 20 years, until Veterans Day when it disappeared from his front yard.
The flag was given to him by a fellow Air Force veteran, Maj. Gen. Robert Stephens. The pair met at Moody Air Force base in the late 1960's.
"He was a University of Georgia graduate. I graduated Georgia Tech. Somebody with a sense of humor decided to pair us as seat mates," Duke explained.
The two remained friends ever since. After their service, the two became commercial pilots for then-Eastern Airlines and later instructor pilots. When Duke retired from Air Force Reserves, Stephens presented him a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capital. Last year, Stephens died from cancer.
On Nov. 10, Duke flew his flag in honor of the Georgia Southern Eagles' homecoming game. He'd planned to take it down before dark and return it to its display location Sunday morning, but he admits he was distracted and left the flag outside. When he went out to check it the next morning, it was gone.
"Of course, it was probably a spur of the moment kinda thing," Duke stated. "I think it was just one of those random thoughtless actions that people would do."
His son launched an appeal for the flag's return on his facebook page. Derek hopes, one way or another, the thief gets the message of the flag's sentimental value and returns it.
"Do the right thing," he asked. " Erk Russell used to say 'do right'. If you'd do something like this, you're part of this country's problems. Why don't you return it and be part of the solution."