ENGLEWOOD, Colorado - One of Mitt Romney's most told anecdotes came to life tonight in front of one of the candidate's largest crowds, as the GOP presidential nominee paraded out a Boy Scoutmaster and an American flag he has been mentioning in stump speeches throughout his campaign, a story meant to highlight American greatness.
"A hero is not someone who is larger than life, just larger than himself," Romney began, launching into the story of meeting with Boy Scout leaders at a Scoutmaster ceremony several years ago. It was there, Romney said, that Scoutmaster William Tolbert told the story of his troop from Monument, Colorado, wanting a "special" American flag.
The troop's flag flew above the Capitol in Washington D.C., as Romney tells the story, and then NASA agreed to the unthinkable: the organization agreed to fly the flag with the space shuttle Challenger on its mission in 1986.
"Can you imagine the pride of our boys as they were sitting in their rooms at school watching the TV sets as they saw the Space Challenger Shuttle launch into the air and then they saw it explode on the TV screen in front of their eyes," Romney told the crowd of 17,000 tonight.
Romney recalled how Tolbert said he'd called NASA for weeks and months asking if any of the flag had survived the crash, which had killed all seven crew members on board. Eventually, Tolbert got the news he was waiting for, and the Boy Scout troop a surprise of a lifetime.
"They presented the boys with this plastic container and they open it up and inside was the American flag - their flag - in perfect condition," said Romney.
"And I haven't seen that flag in I don't know, 15 or 20 years, or that Scoutmaster, but Monument, Colorado, is not that far from here," Romney said, calling out to the Scoutmaster to enter the stage, the crowd erupting in cheers.
"Now, did I get that story right?" Romney asked Tolbert, who came holding the folded flag, which was in a case, in his hands proudly.
"You did, Sir," Tolbert responded, giving Romney a salute.
A campaign aide later said that the campaign had reached out to Tolbert to invite him to tonight's rally, and Tolbert agreed, gifting Romney with a flag from NASA as a keepsake.