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I'd like to whoop them good with my crutch': Thugs injure blind WW2 vet while he protected his flag

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Howard Banks — a 92-year-old former Marine gunner who was blinded by a flare in the Battle of Iwo Jima — was injured after vandals, messing with his American flag, pushed him to the ground. (Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot)

Howard Banks is 92, walks with a cane and is legally blind.

Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot

All of which made the World War II veteran an easy target when he stepped out of his house in Kaufman, Texas, on July 11 — one day before his birthday, KTVT-TV said — to investigate noises coming from his flagpole.

After all, his American flag was torn to shreds and his U.S. Marine flag was thrown in a ditch last year, the station said — and the plucky vet wasn't about to let that happen again.

Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot

“I walked out, hanging onto the railing, and stepped down," Banks told KTVT. "That must’ve startled them."

Banks was pushed from behind and fell to the ground, KDFW-TV said.

“They could see me. I couldn’t see them,” Banks told KTVT. “I turned and looked in the other direction, and about then – ‘wham!’ They knocked me down.”

Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot

Neighbors found him on the ground, helped him up and called police, KTVT noted, adding that the intruders ran off.

Banks told KDFW the vandals didn't touch his Marine flag but did toss his "God Bless All Police" sign across the yard.

Fortunately, his injuries were minor — bumps, bruises, a knee that's "a little twisted," Banks told KTVT.

“On this forearm, it’s kind of sore and rough,” he told the station. “Both of them. I’ve still got soreness here, but I’m durable. I can take it.”

Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot

Indeed, Banks was a gunner and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, KDFW said, so he isn't likely to appease thugs with nothing better to do than vandalize his flags. Banks was blinded by a flare on Iwo Jima, the station said.

Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot

And for Banks, the symbols mean a lot.

"I try to salute my flag every morning," he told KDFW. "I come out, hold on to my railing and salute my flag."

Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot

"It's the one thing I can cling to," Banks added to the station. "Yet at my capacity, there's not much I can do. But I can honor our flag."

Banks was 18 when he enlisted, KDFW said, and all these years later his feelings about his country haven't wavered.

Image source: KTVT-TV video screenshot

“I think we all had that same feeling, that the flag was our identity," he told KTVT. "We were Americans."

And if his attackers are arrested, they'd better hope Banks doesn't come near.

"I'd like to whoop them good with my crutch," he told KDFW.

And there is bit of a happy ending to Banks' story, as Marines who toured in Iraq and Afghanistan heard about what happened and wanted to meet him, KDFW noted in a follow-up piece.

"It's a shame. You know, this guy is living history. He's a national treasure," Kory Ryan with Honor Flight Austin told the station. "People should be lined up on his porch to talk to him, not ripping his flags down."

Michael Jernigan of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation added to KDFW, "You start messing with the American flag, I get real hot under the collar."

So on Sunday they paid Banks a visit and surprised him with an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. to see the World War II memorial, KDFW reported.

"Once a Marine, always a Marine," Banks told the station. "I try to live that way."

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