Flag that flew over NYC on 9/11 serves as backdrop for re-enlistments in Iraq
Pfc. Silas Giberti (left), Sgt. Nicolas LeMay, a native of Ojai, Calif., and Sgt. Aaron Walters, a native of Wichita, Kan., recite the oath of enlistment given by 1st Lt. Jacob Sweatland, Aug. 16. Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, recently received the flag from a Hell's Kitchen firehouse, which was home to Engine 34 and Ladder 21 in New York. The flag flew outside the fire station on Sept. 11, 2001. On that fateful day, 34 firefighters from the station lost their lives in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The flag of the United States of America is one of the most widely recognized symbols in the world - it is the symbol of freedom and democracy.

And one flag in particular has a special meaning for the Soldiers of Multi-National Division - Baghdad's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

On a fateful day in American history, September 11, 2001, the bright red, white and blue flag was dulled by a coverage of dust following the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York.

Peering closely at this particular flag, which now resides at Camp Taji, you can see the many small burn holes where hot ash fell on it - and burned through.

The flag flew over Hell's Kitchen firehouse, which was home to Engine 34 and Ladder 21. On that fateful day, Hell's Kitchen firehouse firefighters lost 34 of their own during rescue operations as they valiantly fought to save the lives of their fellow Americans following the tragic attacks that brought down the twin towers.

Three days later, as the nation mourned, the flag was flown at half-staff over the firehouse to honor the sacrifices of those who lost their lives, especially their fellow firefighters. As the flag billowed in the breeze, the dust fell away, once again revealing the stars and stripes as it soared above firehouse: bowed at half-staff, but not broken.

The flag was taken down and put away, carefully folded to preserve the memories of that day.

Years later, Strykehorse Soldiers, who are based out of Hawaii, unexpectedly received a special gift from the firefighters of Hell's Kitchen firehouse. Inside a care package the carefully folded American flag with a message.

"We have a shared sacrifice with you," read the letter. "We would be honored if you took up our flag as you serve in Iraq. Take these colors and bear them proudly."

The Cavalry Soldiers embraced the flag and use it to pay honor the sacrifices of the firefighters and the nation. For many, reenlisting to continue serving their nation in front of the flag has become a significant honor and has served to make their continuing commitment memorable.

"It is everything I enlisted for, said Spc. Floyd Moss III of Welch, Okla., who chose the flag for his reenlistment. "[This flag] represents the purpose for which I joined. Where this flag has flown, on that day, what other flag would I choose to re-enlist in front of'"

Moss serves as an intelligence analyst with the 185th Military Intelligence Company.

Staff Sgt. Guillermo Allen, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., who serves as the retention sergeant for 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, said the flag has special meaning for the Soldiers because of what it represents.

"This flag bore witness to the most tragic day in [American] history I can recall," he said. "For a lot of these younger Soldiers, that day was why they signed up with the Army. To have them reaffirm their commitment to the Army in [this flag's] presence - Wow!

"These Soldiers are laying it on the line day in and day out, and [this flag] withstood the test. They share a common bond in more ways than one. We make sure that before each reenlistment, we share the story of this flag and honor the sacrifice of those from Engine 34 and Ladder 21."

Strykehorse Soldiers will continue to bear the Hell's Kitchen flag proudly and swear their oaths of reenlistment in front of its Stars and Stripes. For many, it serves as a remembrance of what their mission is - and where it began.

Page last updated Wed September 10th, 2008 at 11:35