A teenager stole an American flag from the Beacon Car & Pet Wash in Pacific, Missouri, but the owner, military veteran Bill Hoaglin, rather than pursuing criminal charges, offered the teenager a more patriotic means to make amends.
19-year-old Keaton Chandler was caught on surveillance tape in the act, so Hoaglin posted the video to social media. Knowing he’d be identified, Chandler called the veteran and offered a weak excuse for his actions.
“‘I am the guy who accidentally stole your flag,'” Hoaglin recalls the teenager laughably saying. “I said, ‘There’s nothing accidental about stealing.'”
Still thinking he had the upper hand, the teenager offered to return the flag if Hoaglin took the footage off of Facebook.
Patriotic Compromise Rather Than Jail
The Air Force veteran wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily. So Hoaglin offered a patriotic compromise. He sent his daughter to purchase 150 small flags from a local store, and Chandler, in order to avoid jail time for theft, agreed to pass the flags out to customers.
He worked for five hours making things right.
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“For nearly five hours, Chandler distributed every single flag to customers,” Yahoo reported. “‘He said he would do whatever it takes,’ says Hoaglin.”
Amazing Life Lesson
Followers on Facebook noted that Hoaglin’s actions may have turned the teenager’s life around.
“It’s hard to find honest people who have the character to own their actions,” one person wrote. “Even though he was wrong for stealing the flag, he did good and just might turn out to be a leader in the future.”
— David Massengill (@dlm198) July 27, 2019
“Well handled, and I am glad the young man showed true backbone in fessing up and taking his lesson,” another individual wrote in response to the story.
The veteran reports that he’s actually offered the flag deal to other teenagers who had done wrong, but this young man was the first to take him up on it.
And, as his grandfather was a Purple Heart recipient during World War II, Hoaglin wanted Chandler to learn that “the flag is more than just a decoration.”
When all was said and done, Chandler offered advice to other teenagers.
“I made a mistake,” he said. “Don’t steal flags, kids.”