WATCH: Utah Garbage Man Neatly Folds American Flag Taken Out of the Trash

by Suzanne Halliburton

A Utah woman, without thinking, threw away a torn American flag, then was stunned when she saw the local garbage man reverently retire the Stars and Stripes.

It turns out, the garbage man who rescued the American flag is a veteran. He’s a former Marine. And Don Gardner, who goes by the nickname “Munch,” still takes his Marine oath very seriously, although he long ago stopped wearing the uniform.

“I took an oath once to defend this country and our flag, and I still do,” Gardner told Fox 13 in Salt Lake City. “A lot of people died protecting that flag and fighting under that flag. A lot of blood’s been shed so that we have the freedoms that we have today.”

The flag belonged to Brooke Cowley and her family. They live in a typical neighborhood in Huntington, Utah. And Cowley said she knew better than to dump the flag in the trash can. Cowley saw Gardner save the flag and she grabbed her phone to document what he did.

News outlets now are sharing the video of this unassuming, patriotic garbage man saving the American flag.

They say we reveal our character when we think no one is looking. Gardner showed he had the heart and character of a patriot.

Utah Woman First Shared Story of Garbage Man Saving Flag

Cowley was responsible for sharing Gardner’s story. She first wrote about it on her Facebook page.

“I was a complete idiot!” she wrote. “I was cleaning our porch while the kids did an Easter egg hunt. I threw away our flag and pole because it had broken and ripped. Then I witnessed our ‘garbage man’ stop, get out of the truck, unhook the flag and take the time to fold it!”

Cowley then talked to Fox 13 about what she witnessed. “I’m thinking, ‘What is he doing?,'” she said. “And then immediately, I was so embarrassed, like, oh my gosh, I was petrified, because I’m married to a veteran. What am I doing?”

During his 11 years as a garbage man, Gardner says he’s saved about a dozen flags from trash cans or the landfill.

“Makes me mad,” Gardner told Fox 13. “I get angry. Sometimes it’s a mistake. Most of the time, it’s on purpose. I have a problem with that, so I just take it out and take care of it.”

The U.S. Flag Code recommends burning the flag in a special ceremony if it’s no longer fit for display. The flag needs to be folded in the correct way, then thoroughly burned. You may salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance as it burns. A flag also can be buried. There’s also another option. You can call the American Legion or local VFW. There are also likely flag disposal boxes at the police station or local government offices.

Gardner suggested summoning the American Legion, which has an annual ceremony to retire flags. Anyone can attend.

“Anybody in Emery County that knows me, if you don’t know what to do with it, get it to me,” Gardner said. “I’ll make sure it’s took care of proper.”