Digital Exclusive: Mission to Return the Flags

Digital Exclusive

WEST PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– The owners of this West Pittston interior design company are on a mission after unearthing two cased veterans flags.

Keith Tomkins is a six-year Navy veteran and now co-owner of Creative Interior Imagery. The opportunity presented itself to serve his fellow veterans by chance.

“We’ve tried a number of different means to try and find the owners of them and haven’t been able to do that. We’re hoping that maybe if someone sees something, we might be able to reunite these flags with a family member,” said Tomkins. “There was a frame shop up in Scranton by the name of Windsor Studio. The gentleman who owned the place passed away–when he did, the other owner of the business–my business partner, happened to be friends with that family. We ended up going up there and helping them close down, clean out and shut down the business. In the process, we came into possession of these two flags.”

He says hauling away most of the clutter and shutting down the Scranton location was easy, but as a fellow veteran–he would never have had the heart to let anything happen to those flags.

“These are something–these are a memorial to people that have served their country. You can’t just toss something like this. We really want to find a family member or relative that might want to take these and have them.”

The plaques read ‘Joseph McGowen, U.S. Navy machinegun mate 2nd class, May 15, 1911 to December 5, 1990’ and ‘Lieutenant Colonel Robert Haines, November 1988 to September 2010.’

Eyewitness News took that information to the Lackawanna County Veterans Affairs Office in Scranton and got almost immediate results. Anissa Akulonis was able to track down one of the names.

“I just went right to a burial book when you told me the date of death and found him. I did some more research through the Pennsylvania archives–found an actual newspaper obituary, said Akulonis. “Looked at some relatives, looked them up and I’ve got the information for you.”

Eyewitness News has put in a call to the family but has not gotten a response just yet. Tomkins says the flags are good to go when he gets the word to deliver.

“This is the condition that we received these in. They were already framed, ready to go–they’ve gotten a little banged and scratched up through the years because they were in storage. They need to be cleaned up a little bit but other than that, the flags are folded, pinned and ready to go.”

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