Stolen Memories: Thieves take flag, flagpole belonging to mother of late veteran

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BENNINGTON — When someone stole a flag from a County Street home on Friday, they had little idea of how significant their actions were.

The flag belonged to Mary Gerren, 85, who flew it in memory of her son, Thomas, an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Army who passed away in 1997. The thieves took the flag and pole, leaving behind only the empty bracket in which it had sat, day and night, for years.

"I've never been so sick in my life," Gerren said. "Why would anyone do something like this?"

Friday night, not far from where the flag was stolen, Mount Anthony Union High School was celebrating its homecoming football game. Gerren, whose husband has also passed, has long been a supporter of Bennington youth sports. "If I walked through that high school today, there is hardly a coach who wouldn't know me," she said. "I didn't do anything to deserve this."

After graduating from Mount Anthony, Thomas Gerren joined the Army and shipped out twice to Germany, said his mother. After he died, and her mobility gradually declined, she would sit inside her home, look at the flag, and remember him.

"He paid his dues as an American citizen," she said. "He made us so proud of him. That's the way he was, an all around nice guy. Everyone who knew him would say the same."

She said that her son often used the term "lowlife scumbag" to describe people he who disappointed him. "Now I know what a lowlife scumbag is," she said.

Gerren said that she could afford to replace the flag, and several friends have offered to do so, but that this was about more than that.

"Flags can be replaced," she said. "But that one was special to me. Did they take it somewhere and throw it away? Did they throw it in the river? They had no idea what it meant to me."

While it might be too much to hope for, Gerren thought that maybe telling the story of the flag would help it be returned. "If they were to read this article, they would realize what they did to this mother."

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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