By Lacey Watt
GREENFIELD — “God had a hand in getting this flag back to her.”
Those are the words that Christine Jones’ husband, Randy, used to describe when she was reunited with the flag from her father’s funeral, along with other belongings that hold so much meaning.
Members of the VFW Post 2693, American Legion and 40&8 sorted through piles of flags just a week ago for their annual joint disposal ceremony, but one flag came with something extra and had to be set to the side.
“Lo and behold,” said Butch Miller after pausing for a moment. “Last evening a young lady called… said she was calling about the flag…”
Once Christine had found out that her father’s flag, photos, dog tags and more were found by the volunteers and then photographed by Tom Russo for use in a story in the Daily Reporter, she reached out to the VFW.
Her father, Tommy Richmond, joined the Marines in September of 1958. He was a man who ironed his jeans for the crease — always looking presentable. That was something he learned in the Marines.
When Tommy fell ill, Christine said that she was not on good terms with her stepmother. A week had gone by before Christine knew he was in the hospital being treated for diverticulitis, which are digestive conditions that affect the large intestine. When her stepmother finally called, Tommy was on life support.
Christine demanded he be transferred to Methodist Hospital, where two days later he was talking again and seemed to be fine, but after going into surgery for his untreated diverticulitis, he never came back out.
Christine said that is one of those moments that is frozen in time, sometimes she tries to ignore.
“He loved cookouts. He loved camping. He loved drinking his beer,” said Christine with a laugh. “… I miss him every day.”
After his passing, Christine said her stepmother wouldn’t let the family have anything of his. Christine would drive by occasionally to see if her stepmother was still there, living in Christine’s great-grandparents home.
One day while driving by, Christine saw a for sale sign in the yard of the home. She later learned that her stepmother had passed away and was buried next to Tommy. Christine then found out that everything of her father’s had been given away by her stepmother’s son.
“I’m assuming he dropped it off. Thank God he dropped off to be properly disposed of or I wouldn’t be here today,” Christine said. “So, I’m mad. He could’ve thrown it in a trash bag, but I’m glad he didn’t.”
Christine thought of how she felt, knowing that she would have something of her father’s.
“Finally,” Christine said. “…I’ve got a big piece of him, history and everything.”
Wednesday night inside the VFW, Bob Workman handed the flag and other belongings to Christine, and with tears of happiness she took a moment to embrace what was finally in her possession. A round of applause and standing ovation broke out for Christine while others in the crowd also teared up.
Christine sat at the table with Randy and her daughter, Autumn, looking at the flag, photos, dog tags, medals and the bullet shells from the salute at his funeral. As she touched the casings, she thought back to the moment they were fired off.
“I jumped at every single shot,” Christine said.
At the end of the presentation of the flag, Randy stood up to address the room.
“I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for presenting this flag and getting it home to where it belongs, my wife and soulmate,” Randy said.
Autumn had never met her grandfather, but she said that seeing the photos of him and his belongings really brought a new perspective to all the stories she had heard about his life.
Randy said he was going to get a shadowbox for the belongings the next day, and the box will sit displayed on a shelf next to his own father’s shadow box, remembering the lives that once served and always loved.
“I thank God for [Tom] every day now with this in my possession,” Christine said. “This is a blessing, such a blessing.”