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Mother misses firefighter son's memorial due to COVID-19 pandemic, receives flag in surprise event

David Baumann insisted on making the 1,400-mile drive from California to Texas to fulfill an obligation to a dear friend who died in the line of duty.

PLANO, Texas — David Baumann insisted on making the 1,400-mile drive this week from California to Texas. Baumann is a firefighter paramedic from the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He made the trip to fulfill an obligation to a dear friend who died in the line of duty.

"Driving is pretty therapeutic," said Baumann.

Brian "Buck' Ballentine, 55, was a highly regarded 34-year veteran of the fire department. He died in mid-July in what the department is calling a "job-related illness." 

On Friday, Baumann presented Ballentine's mother Anita, who lives in Plano, with the U.S. flag that flew over Barton Heliport in California. 

"It's not appropriate for this to arrive via mail," Baumann said. "I hand-delivered it. It's the right thing to do."

Anita Ballentine is a resident at The Conservatory at Plano, which is a retirement community. The Plano Fire Department and The Conservatory helped organize the event where Anita would receive the flag. 

Firefighters lined the front entrance of the campus and residents stood and watched while the Plano Firefighters Pipes and Drums performed. 

Anita told WFAA that she could not attend her son's memorial service in California because of COVID-19, and so this moment was special.

"To have them think of me like this is so beautiful," she said. "I'm holding it tight, I can feel his presence." 

Anita told WFAA that she lost her husband 27 years ago and he was a firefighter who also died in the line of duty. She is thankful for those who organized this event, because she says it caused a lot of heartache not being there for Brian's memorial service.

"This is as if I was there," she said.