Ground Zero flag returns home after a one year deployment to Afghanistan with 404th Civil Affairs Ba
July 22, 2011
NEW YORK " Nine minutes and eleven seconds. The mission of one Command Sergeant Major was simple: fly a U.S. flag over every operating base she could during her deployment to Afghanistan. The flag, once flown over the World Trade Center site in New York City, would fly at each location for nine minutes and eleven seconds.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michelle Fournier, the Command Sergeant Major of the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion accomplished that mission and returned the flag to its home to the WTC “Ground Zero” site in Manhattan, NY July 20, 2011. The flag was raised over the site for nine minutes and eleven seconds in a solemn ceremony with her Soldiers and construction crews before being folded and turned over to the WTC site manager. The flag will be placed in the new museum under construction there.
The flag’s journey started on March 1st, 2010 when Soldiers of the 404th came to Ground Zero to acquire the flag from the port authority prior to their deployment to Afghanistan.
“The intent of taking the flag to Afghanistan was to show that we stand tall as American people here and sharing it with the American and coalition forces overseas,” said Fournier. “We attempted to fly it in many locations that we could”
A total of 38 locations had the honor to raise the Ground Zero Flag for nine minutes and eleven seconds in rememberance of the tragic day that killed thousands on September 11th, 2001. More than 700 U.S. and coalition service members participated in the ceremonies.
Fournier personally brought back the flag to its original home at the Ground Zero construction site. Soldiers from the 404th and the Regional Training Center " East from Fort Dix, N.J. participated in the final flag ceremony.
Sgt. Anthony DiDonado, a civil affairs specialist of the 404th had the honor to raise and lower the flag for the last time before finally retiring the colors. Didonado also was present for its first hoist overseas at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Didonado compared the two ceremonies. “Both places were meaningful as I lost a few friends there in Afghanistan and here it was a deeper feeling to participate in this ceremony at Ground Zero”
The flag was then folded in its traditional triangular displaying the stars that had shined in both countries. “It’s all about tradition,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip McNair, a human resource specialist for the 404th who assisted in folding the flag, “It is a blessing that I am part of this service. It’s about serving my country and being in the Army.”
Port Authority officials are now safeguarding the flag and a collage of photos of every location that have participated for its future display at a museum at the Ground Zero location.
One of a Command Sergeant Major’s duties is to keep and safeguard the colors of the unit to which he or she is assigned. Fournier had to take care of two flags while deployed to Afghanistan. “It means a lot to me. September 11th was a very somber day,” said Fournier, “The flag represents the strength of the American people and the strength of the coalition forces. We stand together united against the war on terrorism.”