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THE UNIFORM STILL FITS: Once a Marine, Always a Marine, Especially When the U.S. Flag Is at Stake

August 7, 2010
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Carl Harstine and young admirer salutes his new flag.

Carl Harstine and young admirer salute his new flag.

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Friday, pockets of people slowly started filing out of their offices and homes from D Street and Bonita Ave. in La Verne all the way to Cataract and 4th St. in San Dimas – and Lindsay Lohan was nowhere in sight.

This curious confection of patriotic paparazzi on a hazy dog day of summer had assembled to see and honor a bigger celebrity and real American hero– Carl Harstine, a spry 84-year-old ex-U.S. Marine who twice had his flag stolen from the front yard of his tidy San Dimas home. The flags had later been found a few blocks away desecrated.

With military precision, an entourage of motorcycle riders, known as the Friends of the Fourth, left Roberta’s restaurant at 1 p.m. and led a procession of cars west on Bonita before turning north on Cataract and reaching Harstine’s home on 4th. Along the unlikely parade route, people waved and wielded tiny American flags to show their respect for what was about to take place.

Tim Morrison, the organizer of La Verne's Friends of the Fourth motorcycle group.

Tim Morrison, the organizer of La Verne's Friends of the Fourth motorcycle group.

The two communities of La Verne and San Dimas, led by Tim Morrison, the organizer of the Friends of the Fourth, Brian McNerney, CEO of the La Verne Chamber, and many, many others, had rallied to restore the flag – and they meant business.

With neighbors, friends, family, councilmen and the curious observing and many tearing up, the Friends of the Fourth not only presented Harstine, dressed smartly in his Marine blues, with a new flag, but anchored a new flag pole in his yard, a new bulwark of defense against the flag robbers.

“You make this old marine feel proud that you still care,” Harstine told the more than 100 people who had gathered around his home. “I appreciate you all.”

The ceremony was short but extremely emotional and heartfelt.

The ceremony was short but extremely emotional and heartfelt.

 

Cheers and hurrahs greeted his words. “We appreciate you, too,” many were heard reciprocating.

When Hartstine’s first flag was stolen, he was very upset, his daughter-in-law Donna Harstine had said.

“When they were stolen a second time, that really sent him through the roof,” she said.

In the home where Harstine has lived for more than 40 years, the old Marine was ready to defend his turf, but the community came to his rescue as word quickly spread about the injustice done.

“The people of San Dimas truly love him,” Donna said. “He’s an icon of the city.”

La Verne Chamber CEO presented Hartstine a sign honoring his service.

La Verne Chamber CEO presented Hartstine a sign honoring his service.

Although he’s 84, Hartstine is still active in the community, slipping on his uniform every Wednesday night to help raise money for a new veterans’ monument.”

“This old marine, who is not getting any younger, wants to see the monument built before he’s gone,” he said, looking as if he is still in battle-ready shape.

While a proud moment for the veteran soldier, it was an equally proud moment for the community.

“I’m here today to honor a citizen who had a wrong done to him,” McNerney said. “We are here to correct that wrong for a man who gave the best years of his life to support this country and keep us free. No one should steal his flags; now we’re going to replace them.”

Added Corrine Pantaleo, a La Verne neighbor, “I feel like crying. We need to support all our vets. They have done so much for us. God bless them. God bless America.”

If the theft and desecration of Hartstine’s flags were a prank, it’s a prank that backfired.

It got not one, but two communities to take the streets to defend the flag and the men and women, like Harstine, who have sacrificed so much to keep it flying as a beacon of liberty and justice for all.

Well-wishers along Bonita show their true colors and affection for the World War II hero.

Well-wishers along Bonita show their true colors and affection for the World War II hero.

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6 Responses to “THE UNIFORM STILL FITS: Once a Marine, Always a Marine, Especially When the U.S. Flag Is at Stake”

  1. Another great job Peter. This was a real special day and Carl was so proud of his family and country. Seeing the community come together was really special!!! This should make everyone proud.!!

  2. Good for you - LaVerne and San Dimas!!! As a veteran myself, it makes me very proud to see such wonderful love and support in your community. God Bless America!

  3. What a great report done for a man that has served his country, almost as great as the people who arranged for this tribute and ceremony to present the American Flag and Pole. It was a wonderful and unforgetable day. Tears were shed by many and Carl Harstine felt honored that so many folks came to pay their respects to him and the Flag. Thank you for reporting on this, it means alot to our community.
    God Bless

  4. J. & J. PATSOURAKOS
    August 7th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    We are of him. He is a great father and father-in-law. My husband has been in the family for 34 years and knows him as I do to be a very proud Marine and veteran. I would like to personally thank each and every person involved with this on my dad’s behalf. I am only too sad to have missed this great event and know what a great day he had yesterday and how very moved he was by all the support he received. God Bless America.

    Nick and Judy Patsourakos
    Santa Clara, Ca.

  5. Thank you La Verne and San Dimas for inviting me to take part in the flag raising ceremony. I’m personally honored to be a part of a fellow Marine’s commendation. I thank you for your support and dedication to the Armed Services and its veterans. As for former Corporal Carl Harstine, he’s a testament to our nation’s great traditions and that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine. You may be out, but the traditions and the attitude stick. If you know of anyone who has any interests or questions about the Marines, feel free to give a call. Semper Fidelis Cpl Carl Harstine, and God Bless everyone.

  6. What a wonderful honer it was to be a part of this event. Although I am unemployed and seeking work, the tears and thanks meant more to me than a paycheck. A paycheck would have been gone by now, and this honer will live with me forever. My mom was a Navy nurse (Lt.) and my dad was a Marine (Sgt.) my stepson will be graduating from Army boot camp next month. You are damn right I am proud to be an American and from my heart, thanks to all the men and women, of the military, past, present, and future for protecting my freedoms.

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