(WBIR - Greeneville) A 102-year-old veteran whose flag was stolen from his Greeneville home now has a new set of stars and stripes to salute.
Earlier this week, WBIR reported on the theft of a special American flag from World War II veteran Charles Kayhart. The flag was given to Kayhart by Governor Bill Haslam and was flown above the State Capitol in Nashville.
"It broke my heart, really," said Kayhart about the flag's theft. "That flag was very dear to me."
Previous Story, July 22, 2014: Sentimental flag stolen from 102-year-old veteran
The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs learned of the stolen flag and sprang into action this week to get Kayhart an exact replacement. Friday marked a banner day for Kayhart as he was able to raise his new banner of freedom.
"I have a certificate here that says the accompanying flag was flown over the Tennessee State Capitol on July 21, 2014, and it is signed by the governor," said Kayhart. "It is a truly beautiful flag. It is just like the one that was stolen. Exactly like it."
For Kayhart, the flag serves as a reminder of those he served with during World War II. That included six months at Iwo Jima, the site of one of the most iconic flag-raisings in American history.
Now Kayhart can once again raise old glory and salute the stars and stripes.
"All of the soldiers past and present, that's what this flag represents to me. This is all hand-sewn. You can see the stitches. And the stars were hand-stitched. It's a flag that I will take down each night and put up each morning," said Kayhart.
While the theft of his previous flag is still bothersome, Kayhart says what he will remember from this entire experience is the response and outpouring of respect from people across the state.
"After the report aired the other night, I've been in stores with people coming up and shaking my hand," said Kayhart. "The phone has been ringing constantly with people calling to give me well-wishes."
Kayhart says the effort by so many to right a wrong is the true reflection of the fabric of this country.
"I'm not surprised by the way people resonded. The people of our country are wonderful people and I love them all."
The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs arranged to replace Kayhart's flag absolutely free. WBIR contacted their office to see if they'd like to be part of this story. A spokesperson replied, "No need for a quote from us. It is all about Mr. Kayhart!"