On Tuesday, the fire department in Milford, Massachusetts, was called in on a special mission. A historic home had caught fire and was swiftly being consumed by the flames. Despite their best efforts, the firefighters knew they wouldn’t be able to save the home. However, Lt. Billy Collins was able to save one thing from the house before it was destroyed, an American flag.
Lt. Collins was photographed carrying the flag away from the flames and the photo soon went viral, according to Today.
It wasn’t until Lt. Collins had backed out of the building after attempting to take down the flames that he noticed the flag. The American flag, which was hanging on the second floor of the home, suddenly caught his eye. After pointing it out to the others gathered, he decided to go back in and retrieve the flag. In the photo, he can be seen walking out the front door of the home, clutching the drenched, but otherwise intact flag.
While this gesture may seem like a lot of effort to some, Lt. Collins didn’t have to think twice about whether or not to go back inside. That’s because he understands the true meaning of all that the flag stands for and has fought hard for American freedom himself as a Marine in Operation: Desert Storm.
Lt. Collins emphasized that while everyone might not share the same political values, they are united as Americans. He just hopes that through it all, people don’t forget what the flag stands for, or the many, many people who have sacrificed their lives for freedom.
“To me, it’s the flag — that’s all of us. No matter what your political beliefs are. It represents all the people that sacrificed. People better than me. I just hope people — with all the fighting going on, the division — (the flag) means a lot,” he said.
The owner of the house’s girlfriend, Caroline Berberich, spoke about how much the flag and Lt. Collins’ gesture meant to them.
“It was very, very meaningful to us,” she said, explaining that the owner’s father was also a military veteran.
“We’re very appreciative they were able to save our flag in the window and stop the fire so it didn’t destroy his father’s flag. If his father’s flag was gone, it would have been the end of him,” she continued.
This isn’t the first firefighter photo to go viral. As The Inquisitr previously reported, firefighter photos from the September 11 terrorist attacks also often circulate online and gain appreciation.