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Grandson honoring World War II veteran
Ignacio Murillo shows the worn and tattered flag that he dug up in his grandfather’s backyard. Rather than burning it, his grandfather – WWII Army Veteran Fred Villanueva – buried the flag instead. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Ignacio Murillo was digging in his grandfather’s backyard when he came across some sort of fabric in the ground that he didn’t recognize.

He knew right off the bat that it wasn’t plastic because his shovel didn’t tear it, but he also knew that a closer inspection was needed to determine what exactly it was that was buried and tattered beneath the soil.

And much to his surprise, he unearthed a weather-worn and tattered American flag.

It turns out, Murillo says, that his grandfather – World War II veteran Fred Villanueva – doesn’t believe in burning the flag, so he figured the best way to retire it was to lay it to rest the same way those who laid their lives down for this country did.

“He’s such a patriotic man – everything in his house is flags and eagles and things like that,” Murillo said. “He was wounded in the Philippines, and he takes great pride in the fact that he’s a United States Army veteran from World War II.

“He used to tell me a lot about the service when he raised me, but I never knew that he was so patriotic that he refused to burn a flag. That really caught me off guard.”

Villanueva – who served in the 25th Division, 27th Infantry – was enlisted in the Army from 1942 to 1946.

When Murillo approached his grandfather, he was told him that he put it in the ground somewhere around 20 years ago – subjecting it to two decades worth of rain, wind, permeating sunlight, and natural decomposition, all of which can be seen on the flag that shows much older than the 20 years it actually is.

 Seeing that simple gesture – the little thing that he did honor his flag and his country – brought Murillo back to the days when his grandfather instilled the ideals of honor and integrity in him.

“He always taught me to respect the veterans – those who are coming home and those who have fought for our country,” Murillo said. “He taught me how to recognize the hats and see those who have served, and all of that came back to me when I pulled that flag out of the dirt.”

Even though his grandfather essentially left it there to spend the rest of its days, Murillo has already contacted a cabinetmaker to create a custom frame that he can place the flag in to serve as a constant reminder of how important freedom is – and that freedom itself is not something that’s free.

“My grandfather got shot right through his stomach,” Murillo said. “He fought hard for this country and he’s proud of this country. Now when I look at this flag I’ll be able to remember what kind of man he was – the kind of man that loved what America stood for so much that he wouldn’t even burn a flag.”