Just like the thousands of Americans in California this month, Army Combat Veteran Chase Bowden and his family were forced to leave their home and all their possessions behind to escape the horrendous Camp Fire. It’s a decision no one should have to make ever, let alone in a matter of a few hours.
“We made the decision [that] we just had to get out of there. We started driving through people’s yards, driving the wrong way on the street…whatever it took to get out of there,” Bowden said to CBS Austin.
In a matter of hours, his entire town of Magalia, California was ravaged by the blaze. The unthinkable became reality: homes, neighborhoods, and lives were taken by the merciless flames. Bowden says that there are no words to describe the devastation.
A few days later, however, in the midst of the turmoil and heartache, something amazing happened. An emergency responder and a friend of Bowden’s sent him a photo of his property showing nothing left standing except for one possession: his American flag.
This flag was of particular importance to Bowden. Bowden had put this flag up on a treehouse he had built for his children a few months earlier.
“I decided to hang the flag in it — being a veteran, it meant a lot to me to have that in there for them,” says Bowden.
Throughout our country’s history, the American flag has been a symbol that represents unity and the fact that we as a country stand together to persevere through our darkest times. In light of the devastation in California, these ideals are more important now more than ever. Despite the destruction, the Flag’s survival was a nod to our country’s strength and resilience as evidenced below.
Paradise City Council Member Melissa Schuster, whose town has been virtually destroyed and has suffered many fatalities from the Camp Fire, is still optimistic for the future of her community.
“We will rebuild our homes, we will rebuild our town stronger, better, safer and more beautiful than ever,” Schuster told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.
To the nearly 9,000 firefighters who are working to contain and defeat the flames in both the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire and the thousands of others lending a hand to those affected by these fires, we salute you.
Bowden and his family are staying in a travel trailer and can’t go back to the property for three weeks. A GoFundMe page has been set up by friends and family to help them rebuild and recover. As of right now, all they have at home is that American Flag.
“I can tell you that that flag will be in our family for the rest of our lives,” Bowden says.
Cover Photo Courtesy of CBS Austin