For the Kellar family, a weathered old American flag has served as a good luck charm for those who have served the nation. And now, after 68 years, six combat deployments on two continents and a sheriff’s office rescue mission, it has been returned to where it first became a treasured heirloom.
The journey of this 48-star relic began in 1953 with an American airman.
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Raymond R. Stockstill obtained the flag while serving in South Korea that year, his nephew, Steve Kellar, told Military Times. After the Korean War ended, Stockstill carried the flag with him when he served in Vietnam as well, Kellar said.
“He called it his charm,” said Kellar, 63, a Mississippi resident who once served as a deputy with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Department.
In 1970, while still in the Reserve, Stockstill took Kellar to his first airshow, and then gave him the flag.
At the time, Kellar was just 12 years old and was dreaming of joining the military.
Later that year, Kellar’s beloved uncle passed away, and the young man kept the flag as a memento.
“He called it his charm,” Kellar said of his uncle’s flag. “This was an honor to me. I proudly displayed it in my room.”
The flag traveled with Kellar wherever he went, displaying it while working as a deputy on a St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Department boat patrol. Realizing the old flag couldn’t withstand the rigors of wind and weather, Kellar kept it mostly tucked away.
Except for that one time.
It was over Memorial Day weekend, 1975. While on boat patrol duty in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, Kellar once again raise the flag.
Once again, it proved lucky.
“We rescued four souls from a burning cabin cruiser with no injuries that day,” Kellar said.
In early 2003, Kellar presented the flag to his son, Army Staff Sgt Charles “Charlie” J Kellar, who was leaving for a deployment to Afghanistan.
On Sept. 11, 2003,, Charlie Kellar, now 43, loaned the flag to an MP unit outside of Bagram Air Base.
“It was 9/11 and some MPs came around and said ‘hey we don’t have a flag to fly, does anyone have a flag?’” Kellar said. So the soldier pulled out his treasured flag from his backpack.
“At that time Charlie was on his way to be attached with the 10th Mountain Div. at FOB Salerno near Khost,” Kellar said.
During the deployment, Kellar said his son’s quarters got hit.
“No one was in it, so no one was injured,” he said. “But the flag didn’t have a scratch. It was hanging on the wall behind his bunk.”
The flag continued to be a charm throughout Charlie Kellar’s career. He carried it through Iraq in 2006, Afghan in 2008, again to Afghan in 2011 and on the Iraq-Kuwait border in 2014.
In February 2021, the flag returned to South Korea where the journey began and where Charlie Kellar has been deployed at Camp Humphreys with the 2nd Infantry Division.
While the flag traveled with Charlie Kellar throughout all of his deployments, no injuries were sustained.
In March 2021, Charlie Kellar was in a vehicle accident on base that required surgery on his left forearm.
“He still considers the flag as a charm as he is alive and well,” said his father, adding that his son is packed and waiting orders to return to the states.
As another July 4 rolls around, the old American flag has special meaning for the Kellar family.
Charlie Kellar will probably be saying goodbye to his friends in South Korea. The rest of the family will be placing American flags at family cemeteries and enjoying barbecues, said Steve Kellar.
But service and sacrifice will always be top of mind, he said.
“Let’s remember those women and men who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Steve Kellar said.