Man courageously recovers American flag from busy highway: 'it represents the freedom'

A Massachusetts man risked his own life to save a torn and tattered American flag that had been lying on a busy highway during rush hour, with cars driving through it.

James Deely, a 33-year-old resident from West-Bridgewater, was on his way home from work on Aug. 16 when he noticed a flag attached to a pole in the middle of the northbound lane at Route 24 between exits 15 and 16 near the West Bridgewater-Bridgewater town line.

James Deely, a 33-year-old resident from Massachuttes risked his own life to rescue a flag that had fallen on a busy highway.

James Deely, a 33-year-old resident from Massachuttes risked his own life to rescue a flag that had fallen on a busy highway. (FS American Flag)

While most people drove past it, Deely recalled his elementary school memories staring at the flag and holding his heart while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. He feared it would be run over countless times in the night and forgotten.

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“I drove past it, just like pretty much everyone else did, and I kept going up the highway,” he told CBS Boston. “I was torn, [thinking], You know, I should really go back and pick it up. I thought about always seeing this flag throughout my entire journey through this crazy world. Memories that would never fade."

Deely, who says the flag might have fallen off the back of a truck, turned his car around and put on his hazards in the breakdown lane. He then waited about 15-20 minutes on the side of the highway during the busy five o'clock rush hour, scoping for an opportunity to grab it when traffic lessened.

He found his chance and ran over to the median, where he grabbed the battered flag and waited another 15 minutes before he could cross back again. His deed didn't go unnoticed by other drivers, and when he made it to his car, Deely folded the flag he estimates at 5 feet by 3 feet.

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“I picked the flag up and got a lot of passersby waving, giving me the thumbs-up, and honking the horn,” Deely said.

Deely says the flag represents the freedom instilled in him since he was a kid, as well as our country and the people who fight for it. His next step is getting the flag professionally dry-cleaned and finding the perfect place to put it in his home, according to the Enterprise.

He also hopes to use his actions today as a lesson for his son Lincoln about doing the right thing.

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"I grew up and was raised to respect the flag and the country it stands for. It is not something that you forget or let fall by the wayside," he said.