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Iraqi Freedom Veteran Reflects on Meaning of Flag Day
American Forces Press Service ^ | June 14, 2005 | Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA

Posted on 06/14/2005 4:52:51 PM PDT by SandRat

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2005 – It's been a little more than two months since I returned from Iraq. More than a year earlier I promised my wife I'd come home safely, and the day I returned, hours after I had come home, I watched my wife eagerly remove the Blue Star Service Banner that hung in our front window, and she happily watched me bring down the yellow ribbon that had hugged our yard's corner tree for a year.

The symbols of my family's hardship and sacrifice were now finally gone from the landscape of my neighborhood. Passersby and neighbors, noting the missing banner and yellow ribbon, stopped by and welcomed me home. My family's soldier was home, and the tattered, frayed ribbon that weathered three Florida hurricanes, and the banner that faded in the setting sun each day were now stowed for posterity.

Before I left Iraq, I, too, removed an item from display. It hung in the public affairs "hooch" at Phoenix Base in Baghdad, and also briefly in my quarters. The item had made the long journey from the United States to Iraq. Now back home, it sits far from the angry sounds of mortar, rocket and small-arms fire so familiar to soldiers in Iraq -- now also familiar to this flag. It is a U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol on the day I became an Army officer.

Before my duty in Iraq, the flag served as a moral compass that guided me and kept my course true after I decided to leave the enlisted ranks and set my course on an officer's career path. It kept me focused and committed to the oath I took when I became a second lieutenant. I kept it within eyeshot in my office. Looking at it as I weighed options more than once helped me make sound military, personal and ethical decisions.

In Iraq, the flag was still a source of direction. The enemy routinely attacked us using indirect fire. On one occasion a round hit our compound, but did not explode. But another hit so close that the wall-draped flag waved slightly from the blast that violently shook the walls.

I looked around the hooch as we hugged the floor, and for some strange reason I felt reassured, safe. "It's going to be fine," I told my soldiers. I stared at the colors as the mortars continued to hit, and found an immense source of strength. I was never able to explain it, but every time we were attacked, if I was in the hooch, I always looked to that flag for a sense of peace, for stability, to keep me focused and grounded.

When I was in Fallujah, Iraqi security forces raised their nation's flag in a scene reminiscent of U.S. Marines raising the flag at Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, Japan, in World War II. Having seized Fallujah's hospital, one of the major objectives in Operation Al Fajr (Arabic for "dawn"), Iraqi special forces lifted their nation's colors, and in doing so lifted their comrades' spirits. And while the raising of the Iraqi flag inside of Fallujah's city limits was not as dramatic as the Marines raising the U.S. flag in the Pacific, to me, an officer sent to Iraq to help support the training of Iraqi security forces, it was equally inspiring.

As I served in Iraq, I wore the U.S. flag on my uniform. The flag accompanied me as I traveled the sometimes-dangerous streets of Iraq and flew with me in Iraq's not-so-friendly skies. My U.S. flag patches are the only patches from my uniform that I have kept.

Now, symbols of my war service, like my flag patches, are securely tucked away in a keepsake box, and my commissioning flag sits on a shelf in our den encased in wood and glass. Someday I'm sure they will again serve as a source of inspiration.

But today is Flag Day. And for my family, our house is not our home without the flag waving gently, quietly, proudly in the breeze on our front porch. For us, our flag symbolizes that we are free to do what we want, when we want. It represents freedom of spirit, who we are, what we stand for, and what we're willing to endure for liberty.

That's what kept me focused in Iraq and kept me believing in our mission. To me, the flag represents my family, our way of life -- many, united as one. And maybe that's what Flag Day is all about. The flag is something different to everyone, and in that disparity there is unity, a bond.

I've returned to my life as a part-time soldier, and I am in Washington performing my annual training. It comes as no surprise that on my son's first visit to Washington, the first two places we visited were the Marine Corps War Memorial and the National Museum of American History.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts that famous World War II flag raising, now reminds me of the nascent Iraqi forces raising their country's colors in Fallujah. The symbolism behind the monument has become, for me, one and the same with the symbolism of that moment in Fallujah.

And draped at the entrance of the National Museum of American History is a symbol of sorrow, resolve, determination and inspiration -- the mammoth flag that covered the span across the Pentagon's damaged walls the morning after Sept. 11, 2001.

And as expected, the encased flag in my den and the flag patches I wore on my uniform are once again serving as a source of inspiration.

You are, after all, reading this article.

(Army Reserve Capt. Steve Alvarez was public affairs officer for Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.)

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: flag; flagday; freedom; hero; honor; iraq; oifveterans; oldglory; soldier; us; veteran
A warrior knows what the US Flag means.
1 posted on 06/14/2005 4:52:52 PM PDT by SandRat
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To: Radix; HiJinx; Spiff; Da Jerdge; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; TEXOKIE; Alamo-Girl; windchime; ...

What a warrior feels about the meaning of Flag Day.

2 posted on 06/14/2005 4:53:36 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat

A most inspiring read.

3 posted on 06/14/2005 4:55:46 PM PDT by Ciexyz (Let us always remember, the Lord is in control.)
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To: SandRat
Thank you for the post.

Stars and Stripes by Aaron Tippin (wish I could post the video)

4 posted on 06/14/2005 6:17:47 PM PDT by easonc52
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To: Abigail Adams; AIC; airborne; Alamo-Girl; ALOHA RONNIE; apackof2; AquariusStar22; arjay; ...

Flag Day ping.

5 posted on 06/14/2005 6:58:47 PM PDT by patriciaruth (They are all Mike Spans)
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To: patriciaruth


6 posted on 06/14/2005 7:05:15 PM PDT by BykrBayb (Impeach Judge Greer - In memory of Terri Schindler <strike>Schiavo</strike> -
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To: patriciaruth

That is beautiful, PatriciaRuth. Thank you for pinging me.

Happy Flag Day. Keep 'em flying high!!

7 posted on 06/14/2005 7:22:47 PM PDT by JustAmy (Remember our President and our troops in your prayers. God Bless America.)
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To: SandRat

Beautiful! Just beautiful!

8 posted on 06/14/2005 7:32:35 PM PDT by airborne (Dear Lord, please be with my family in Iraq. Keep them close to You and safely in Your arms.)
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To: SandRat

"A warrior knows what the US Flag means." Damn straight! Excellent article!

My family and I had a great time this evening. Myself, my MIL, my FIL and a miscellaneous niece and nephew all went to our "Free Concert in the Park" tonight, in Cow Town, USA. (DH had to work; someone has to!)

As it was Flag Day, the VFW presented The Colors, and it was wonderful. All of the music was military-ish, marches, Americana, etc.

It was awesome! One of the arrangements was the "theme song" from each branch of the military. When our theme was played, we were to stand up to represent our time in service. FIL is a Marine and I am retired Army, so we both stood when our time came. There were many, many vets there, most elderly, some disabled, but all stood as best they could when their time came.

This is soooo sappy, but I can't begin to tell you guys how much I LOVE THIS COUNTRY! It is the most amazing place on this planet, and while I was listening to the music, and waving my flag to the beat, I truly, truly felt sorry for anyone that hasn't expereienced the JOY and the HONOR of serving America throughout the years. I am so GRATEFUL that I took that path. I would be less of an American today, I think, had I not impulsively said, "Sign Me Up!" all those years ago.

How ANYONE (and you know who I mean) could even THINK to burn an American Flag, or trash-talk America, needs a serious lesson in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness!

And that's my patented "Flag Day Rant." *Steps Off Soapbox* ;)

9 posted on 06/14/2005 7:43:42 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

Today I had to be one of the Pod-People. Did my FLAG DAY on Sunday at the Elks Lodge. Even climbed back into the uniform that I retired in 13 years ago and it fit. The Mrs is angry about that, muttering somthing about life not being fair, and caused by having 3 children.

10 posted on 06/14/2005 7:51:42 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat

"The Mrs is angry about that, muttering somthing about life not being fair, and caused by having 3 children."

Tell her it works both ways. I'd be hard-pressed to squeeze myself into my Class A's these 10 years later, too. I should just get rid of the d@mn things, but I like all those shiney, candy-like ribbons on them, LOL!

And no, John Kerry can't have mine to throw away. I EARNED mine; I'm keepin' 'em! ;)

11 posted on 06/14/2005 8:08:15 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: SandRat

Thanks for the ping!

12 posted on 06/14/2005 8:48:39 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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