A Mesa woman was surprised to find an extremely large American flag stuffed into a box while looking for a computer at the ASU surplus building and decided to help get the flag somewhere it would be respected.
The flag is believed to have been handmade by a Sun Devil boosters group for display on the football field during events. The flag was designated to be sold at the surplus location when Mary Beth McMichael stumbled upon it.
“I was waiting for someone to help me out and was looking around and found this box and saw that there was an American flag stuffed inside,” she said. “The flag was designated to be sold without regard to its condition or the manner in which all of the University’s property is disposed.”
The flag’s condition worried McMichael and she said she knew she had to do something about it.
“I saw the flag on a Wednesday when the surplus warehouse was closing, and it troubled me all night that I hadn’t done anything about it,” she said. “Thursday morning I realized this was about more than one flag.”
McMichael compared the treatment of the flag to plastic ones used at parades and left on the ground.
“I considered returning to the surplus warehouse to buy the flag and take care of it myself, but I am partially disabled and could have barely managed to get it out of the box to fold it properly,” she said.
McMichael said she saw this as an opportunity to teach people about proper flag etiquette, so she started contacting whomever she thought would be able to help.
“Whoever had crammed the flag into the box had certainly known what it was, but it may never be possible to determine the exact identity of the party,” she said. “I started sending emails and Facebook messages to any current or former civic leaders in the Tempe area.”
McMichael said she asked for help with an enormous state-owned U.S. flag to dispose of and described the flag to the different parties.
“The flag is so immense that each star is the size of a dinner plate, and each stripe is more then 12 inches wide” she said. “The red had bled into the white making it pink so it is no longer serviceable, and that is why I was looking for someone to dispose of it properly.”
McMichael’s saving grace for the flag came when she contacted Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema’s Phoenix office and spoke with Mary Peralta.
“Mary answered the call and took an immediate personal interest and responsibility with the flag,” McMichael said. “She collected information from me and promised she would go over herself to address the situation.”
Peralta lived up to her word and within three hours had driven over and purchased the flag for $5.
“I received a call from Mary Beth McMichael, and I went to go look at the flag and find out what exactly what was going on,” Peralta said. “I bought the flag and brought it back to our district office.”
Janey Pearl of Sinema’s district office described the flag as enormous and helped to get in touch with ROTC members at ASU.
“We had our interns and staff standing on the second story of the building and it is about two stories high and just huge,” she said. “The ROTC at ASU contacted us and said they’d like to have the flag so they came over and picked it up.”
The ROTC now has the responsibility of deciding what to do with the flag and Pearl said it was deciding whether to properly retire it or to possibly restore it and put it back into use.
Sinema said she was happy her office decided to help McMichael and the flag.
“Some of the most important work my office does is dealing with the ‘small personal interests’ of our constituents,” she said in an email. “What might seem small to one person, is important enough for someone else to pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email or attend an event.”
Happy with how the story of the flag turned out, Sinema said she is glad the ROTC decided to take it.
“When we first went to retrieve the flag, the intention was to contact the American Legion to ensure the flag would receive a proper and respectful disposal,” Sinema said in an email. “The ROTC program contacted us asking if we’d give the flag to them, and of course we said yes.”
McMichael said she is very happy with how everything turned out and gave all of the praise to Sinema’s office.
“All of the kudos go to Congresswoman Sinema and her team over at her office,” McMichael said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joey_hancock