The Remarkable Patriotism series is an ongoing blog series of stories Americans should know about their fellow citizens who exemplified what it means to use your freedom to serve one another and leave a positive mark.
When we hear WWII, we automatically think about remarkable patriotism brought by our deemed greatest generation But it's important to know that rightfully earned narrative was stitched by individual story after story.
This story is about Cpl. Jose Quintero, who volunteered to served with the Army and was deployed to the Pacific with the 60th Coastal Artillery regiments of the New Mexico National Guard. The Pacific was a gruesome place for war: fighting against a ruthless enemy, through very thick jungle terrain, with a humid heat that drains the body, island hopping from hell to hell rather than paradise to paradise. Cpl. Quintero and the Regiment were fighting in Corregidor and Bataan, for five long months before they were eventually defeated by disease, hunger, and lack of supply & ammunition in May of 1942 and those living were forced to walk the Bataan Death March and became Prisoners of War (POWs).
A friend of Cpl. Quintero wrote "My friend Jose experienced this hardship and sacrifice. And he did it with one thought in mind - to do his duty, to serve with honor, to fight for the country that he loved. This isn't just some musty old war story. It was real, and remains so to this day for Jose and his comrades. You see, loyalty and patriotism are especially strong traits of these veterans. These men fought with courage. They went beyond courage to bravery in the face of a superior force. Courage is an admirable quality. A courageous person is able to look at adversity and to face it squarely. The courageous are full of heart. The brave take it one step further and act despite overwhelming odds in an act of self sacrifice. The brave place others before themselves. Their act is one of love and generosity."
After the defeat, the Americans were taken to the Philippines to live an work in the harshest and cruelest conditions. But Cpl. Quintero wasn't going to let the Japanese break his pride and spirit. Looking for a way to raise his spirit and those in the camp around him and to honor the service members he saw die fighting along side him, he started secretly tearing a red blanket and white bed sheet he stole from a camp guard in to strips. He then cut a square of denim from Filipino dungarees. He had help from a Canadian soldier who worked in the tailor shop to sew these pieces into an American Flag.
In order to not get caught, this flag took over a year to be made. They had to hide the pieces in canvas and bury it in the dirt and work on it stitch by stitch to stay under the radar of the guards. It is said, when American bombers were approaching the camp, Cpl. Quintero brought the flag out and ran into the open waving it so they would know there are American POWs at the camp saving and liberating them.
Once Quintero came home, the flag was folded and packed away with his uniform. A few years later when he married and had kids, the kids say the first learned of the flag when they were playing hide and seek and stumbled on his WWII boxes in the back of his closet. It wasn't until other people started telling the story about the flag that his children learned the story of how not all flags are created equally.