How do you fold the American flag?  Well, Gustus Bozarth knew how to do it, and did it when he thought no one was looking.

His name may not ring loudly in the annals of American history, but perhaps it should.

Bozarth died in June of 2011, only a few weeks before he was able to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a patriotic, some say heroic act, that he performed in El Paso, Texas in 2010.

It was a Sunday, July 4, 2010 at the El Paso offices of Management and Engineering Technologies International, Inc. (METI), a federal contractor with a name that might sound just about as impersonal as one can.  But on that July day the American flag outside the building fell to the ground as the flag pole holding it collapsed during high winds and driving rain.  And things turned personal when workers who returned to work on Monday picked up the pole and were astonished to find that the flag had been set aside and neatly folded.

A review of surveillance footage revealed how the flag ended up that way.  A homeless man who lived in a nearby warehouse was walking by when he saw the flag on the ground. He paused, folded it properly, and left.  It was later learned that the man was Gustus Bozarth.

Bozarth had traveled throughout the country doing odd jobs.  He lived with his cats, Lynx and Bobcat, and described himself as an "unemployed security officer."

It was during a stint at one of those odd jobs when, working as a security guard in Tampa, Florida, Bozarth learned how to fold the flag.  So, when he found it on the ground he thought that the only right thing to do was to accord the flag the respect he believed it deserved as the symbol of the country he so dearly loved.  And, he said, he loved America in spite of his homelessness, in spite of his circumstances.

Gustus Bozarth Facebook page
Gustus Bozarth Facebook page

A traffic anchor working at KFOX-14 in El Paso, Texas heard the story from a friend and pitched it to the television station.  Photojournalist Rudy Reyes helped develop it and track down Bozarth.  The story aired and was picked up by Austin, Texas-based KVUE.  The response to that broadcast was overwhelming.

Gustus Bozarth soon became an Internet celebrity.  Finding the flag, he said in the KVUE news report below from Austin, Texas, changed his life:

KVUE-TV Austin/San Antonio, Texas

Here is the original surveillance video:

METI, Inc. Surveillance Camera Video July 2010

Donations began pouring in and it was not long before Bozarth had a Facebook page and a little more warmth in his life.  The fame did not last long, however, as Bozarth died less than a year later, apparently of a heart attack.

And so, whether or not you are among those who fly a flag in front of your home or business, you may wish to take a few moments this Independence Day to include Gustus Bozarth in your thoughts.

And, if you need to know how to fold the flag you can check out this video courtesy of the 3rd US Infantry Regimen (and if you are alone you can improvise as Gustus Bozarth did):

3rd US Infantry Regimen (The Old Guard) via YouTube