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Cedar City Mom Searching for Stolen Hotshots Memorial Flag Given to Honor Her Son

Cedar City, Utah – A Cedar City woman is making a desperate plea to the community to keep an eye out for a cherished item she says was stolen. It’s not anything expensive – but something extremely sentimental.

At the Ekker house in Cedar City, this time of year is always tough.

“He loved what he was doing and he loved the people,” said Gayemarie Ekker of her late son.

“We lost the boys on the 30th of June,” Ekker said.

The ‘boys’ she is referring to are the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew out of Prescott, Arizona. On that day in 2013, 19 wildland firefighters lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill fire including Ekker’s son, Joe Thurston.

“Joe loved being a firefighter,” she said. “His nickname with the crew was ‘Utah,’” she said.

The families of those lost received hot shot flags at the cemetery to remember their loved ones. Each year, from the 25th of June to 7th of July, they proudly display them.

“I don’t think people really understand about wildland firefighters,” she said. “They run towards danger when everyone else runs away.”

Sometime on Saturday July 6th, the flag went missing.

“That flag represents so much,” she said through tears.

Following the loss of the flag, Ekker put out a box with a sign asking for its safe return.

“Somebody stole the cinder block out of the box and that was the final blow,” she said.

Her heart still aches for her son every day.

“Every morning I run out to see if someone might have put (the flag) back,” she said. “I hope somebody will know somebody and the flag will come home.”

She knows her son will never come home, but she’s holding onto hope the symbol representing his sacrifice will.

“I can’t believe my Cedar City has a person in this community that I love so dearly that would break my heart,” she said.

If you have any information about the flag you’re asked to contact the Cedar City police department.


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