SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – A local Marine on vacation in Texas took matters into his own hands when he saw a torn American flag. He took the tattered flag down and replaced it with a brand new one, then honorably retired Old Glory at MCRD.
Gunnery Sergeant Charles Pena went to war for the American Flag four times in the Middle East. It was in Houston of all places two weekends ago where he fought for it again.
In Houston to visit family for just 48 hours, Pena put his trip on hold when he spotted a flag that looked more like a rag flying on top of a convenience store.
Pena stopped to do something that wasn't convenient at all.
"Wherever I go I have to do the right thing no matter what," Pena said.
Pena's first tactical decision? Go to Walmart and buy a new flag.
"It was $18 sir, that's not including tax," he said.
Pena's next move was to ask the convenience store manager if he could replace the flag. The manager said yes, but didn't have a ladder. So Pena borrowed one from a nearby apartment complex and swapped out the flag with the help of his son and manager of the store.
"It felt good sir. It was an honorable thing to let our colors fly properly the way it's supposed to be, on top of that building," Pena said.
Thousands of people were driving by the old flag every day. Pena's wife Ana wasn't surprised it took her husband to complete the mission.
"It's very normal in our household. We do what has to be done," she said.
Pena has been a Marine for 18 years. He's also a drill instructor who expects Marines and civilians to march in line when it comes to the flag.
"It's like a living thing. It's our nation," he said.
Which is why that little flag that was more stars than stripes traveled from Houston in Pena's own hands for a proper retirement.
Pena has decided to honor the flag by keeping it in a shadow box.
The story has touched a lot of people, including a retired Army captain, who wants to send Pena $20 to reimburse him for the flag – tax and all.