Reward offered for stolen flag that covered veteran’s casket
Patrick Corcoran's body was never recovered from the South China Sea after he was killed during the Vietnam War.
Now a reward is being offered for the return of the only thing his family has to remember him by, the flag that draped his casket, which was stolen from outside their North Wildwood home on July 4.
His brother Tom Corcoran made a plea for the flag's return during a new conference outside the North Wildwood Fire Department Friday afternoon.
"We have nothing of Patrick's," Tom Corcoran said, according to video posted by the Wildwood Leader. "There were no dog tags, there is no body. The connection to our brother Patrick is a flag."
He thanked the police department, fire department, recreation department and the mayor for their efforts to spread the word. He also praised the veterans, who he said stood by his family 47 years ago and continue to do so today.
"Whoever has it, whoever knows anything about it, please return that flag to us," he said, as his sister Sue Meissler stood by his side. "Put it on my step, bring it to the police department, bring it to the fire station, mail it to me. I don't care, we don't care, just bring it back to us."
Joe Griffies, a Vietnam Veteran and WIBG 1020 AM radio show host, said during his broadcast Saturday that a cash award is being offered through anonymous donors.
"We will not ask you anything," Griffies said. "I will make contact with you. I will be the only one, not the police, not the detectives, not anyone else. When we can prove that this is Patrick Corcoran's flag, we will give you cash."
North Wildwood Police are conducting a criminal investigation, but Griffies said he would not disclose the name of the person who turns the flag into him and that the investigation would cease if the flag is returned. He urged anyone with information to call him at 267-679-5193.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, was a guest on Griffies show Saturday afternoon and called the theft "unconscionable."
"I hope your very gracious overture to the person who committed that crime gets heard and gets responded to because maybe not only will that family get back the one thing that they have, but at the same time you might be able to turn that life around," Menendez said.
Griffies also urged Menedez to fight to get Corcoran's name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Patrick Corcoran is among the 74 sailors who were killed when the Frank E. Evans destroyer collided with an Australian aircraft carrier during an exercise on June 3, 1969. Because the collision happened outside of the war zone, the names of those killed on the ship were not included in the memorial.
Veterans groups have been urging the federal government to include the names and Griffies said private funds have been raised to cover the cost. He said while the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have supported the addition of the names, as well as the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of Defense has not signed off. He urged Menendez to call Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
"You have my world that I will call him," Menendez said.
Patrick Corcoran's brother and sister were only 9 and 14 when he died, but each year their neighbor allows them to use his flag pole to fly the casket flag in their brother's memory on Memorial Day. This year, due to the weather, the flag was flown on July 4.
Tom Corcoran said at the news conference Friday that offers of replacement flags have come from across the country and the military has also reached out to his family with offers of flags.
"We've gotten offers from flags as far away as Nebraska," he said. "People want to send us replacement flags from their brothers, their fathers. The outpouring of emotion to us has just been unbelievable and absolutely incredible."
But the family wants their last connection to their brother, the flag that draped his empty casket.
"Let's take a wrong and make it right," Tom Corcoran said.