• 'That boy was my life': Flag from coffin of U.S. airman who died returned to family

    By: Christopher Boyce , Ken Tyndall

    Updated:

    WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - It was a reunion over a decade in the making.

    Air Force Staff Sergeant Mike Long died at the age of 30 on his father's birthday in a motorcycle accident while he was on leave in Central Florida. 

    Mike's father, Charlie Long, had full custody of him since he was a toddler. The flag that was presented on Mike's coffin was presented to his mother after his death.


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    At some point, the flag was abandoned. The flag wasn't recovered until someone was cleaning out a home in Winter Garden in January. The finders turned the flag over to the American Legion with a handwritten note in hopes that it would make its was back to family.

    Those hopes were answered after officials were able to track Charlie down in Ohio.

    "Everything, it means everything," said Charlie Long. "That boy was my life."

    Charlie had a duplicate flag, but it was lost in a house fire years ago.

    "I was very elated to know that someone would go through all the trouble to get it back to us," said Long.

    Just weeks after Staff Sergeant Long died, his fiance gave birth to their son, Trip. 

    Now 11-years-old, Trip says his dad is a hero.

    "It makes me feel proud that I came from that," said Trip Long. "That I'm related to that."

    The family has always been transparent with Trip about what happened to his father. The reuniting of the flag makes him a little closer to the dad he didn't get a chance to meet.

    "It makes me feel like he did something great and that maybe I can do something like that," said Trip.

    The family said that the flag and medals will be treasured and protected. The family is also hoping that an iron cross that was located at the site where Long died also finds a way back to the family. 

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