VFW flag returned 20 years after theft

Irishman mails letter, stolen U.S. flag
August 20, 2020

Bob McGinnis, post quartermaster of VFW Post 7447 Rehoboth Beach, wasn’t sure if he should open the small brown box that arrived in the mail from Ireland in early August.

“It could have been from the IRA,” he joked. 

But, the postmark looked legitimate; the box was sent by Billy O’Boyle, from Clonmel, County Tipperary. McGinnis cut open the box. He pulled out a letter and a timeworn U.S. flag, its stitches frayed.

“Hope all is well with you guys stateside,” the letter read. “Twenty-three-year-old me took this flag from your building in summer of 2000. Apologies; all I wanted was a souvenir, and what better item than the American flag! But it wasn’t cool.”

O’Boyle wrote that he wanted to give the flag back because he had seen the news recently and hoped Americans were safe.

“Hopefully your leaders start leading again soon,” he wrote, adding a smiley face. “I love all my visits stateside, but the summer of 2000 in Rehoboth and Dewey was amazing for me!”

O’Boyle apologized for being an “idiot,” and said he took care of the flag for 20 years.

“I minded it and hope I folded it correctly,” he said. “I really hope it goes back where it belongs on the VFW building Rehoboth flagpole.”

McGinnis said the flag had long been replaced; the VFW usually receives flags donated by Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, and Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth. McGinnis said the Post would find some way to display the flag and letter.

“I don’t know how long that one was flying when he stole it,” McGinnis smiled. “We’ll try to reach out to him, start a conversation, and send him some post T-shirts and American Legion T-shirts. We’ll give him a true souvenir.”

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