South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers Observe 9/11 with Storied Flag
September 20, 2012
CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT -- As the sun rose here on Sept. 11, about a dozen Soldiers of C Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment gathered at the battalion's flagpole to raise their state's flag to half-mast, remember those killed in the 9/11 attacks, honor those who've fallen since and support those who continue to fight terrorism.
But the somewhat tattered and faded flag the South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers flew is part of that history, having been through those very same wars, from Afghanistan to Iraq and back. It belongs to C Company Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Terry Pansing and his brother Maj. Marcus Wright, an infantry officer, who have carried it along on over a half-dozen overseas deployments.
Along with commemorating the fallen, the brothers carried the flag overseas to represent South Carolina, where they were raised. Pansing said they graduated from high school in South Carolina and that his brother went on to graduate from the Citadel, South Carolina's premier military college, so their ties to the state are very strong.
"We weren't born there, but it's our home," said Pansing, of Isle of Palms, S.C.
Sons of a United States Air Force non-commissioned officer, Pansing was born in Thailand and Wright was born in Germany. They came to America in 1984, when their father was assigned to Charleston Air Force Base.
Pansing served as an infantryman in the United States Army from 1992 to 1996, and joined the South Carolina Army National Guard in 1998.
"I missed the infantry," he explained with a smile.
Just before the 9/11 attacks, Pansing learned that A Company, 4th Battalion -- his unit at the time -- was planning to retire the South Carolina Flag that flew over its Armory in Moncks Corners, S.C. Pansing didn't think the flag was that worn.
"At the time, I wanted my own South Carolina flag," he recalled. At his request, the unit gave him the flag.
Pansing was on duty with A Company the morning of the 9/11 attacks.
"I was angry, of course, just like any other Soldier," he said. "I wanted to do something." Though his unit was mobilized for Operation Noble Eagle, the homeland defense mission which immediately followed the 9/11 attacks, Pansing had to become an American citizen in order to stay in the Army National Guard.
Determined to join the fight, Pansing worked to become an American citizen. The painstaking process took about a year -- a waiting period made all the more painful because he was anxious to deploy, he said.
"As soon as I got my citizenship, I volunteered for my first deployment, which was to Iraq in '04 and '05," Pansing recalled. He served as a hummvee gunner during convoy escort missions in Iraq, and withstood indirect fire attacks from insurgents.
About two years later, Pansing deployed to Afghanistan as a squad leader and was involved in three firefights, once finding himself back in a hummvee's turret as a gunner. Though they lost Soldiers during the deployment, they came through the firefights unscathed, and Pansing considers himself lucky.
Wright, meanwhile, completed a tour of Iraq and three tours of Afghanistan. Coming and going on these trips to overseas warzones, the brothers always took the time and trouble to exchange the South Carolina flag, and occasionally a United States flag they had carried, sometimes by mail.
"One of us always had the flag, and we made sure it got to the other person," Pansing said.
Pansing hung the flag in his living quarters overseas, but once flew it over a base in Afghanistan. Like all Soldiers, Pansing deployed with multiple duffle bags packed with clothing and equipment, but he never wavered in his commitment.
"I always made room for the flag," Pansing said.
After Pansing completes his current deployment, he and his brother plan to put the South Carolina flag in a handsome display case with a plaque detailing its wartime history. They'll then give it to their mother, just as they did with the United States flag they carried overseas.
Until then, Pansing will keep the flag in his room and bring it out only for solemn occasions like the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. The flag gives him a sense of pride, he said.
"Even though we're away from home, we bring a piece of home with us," he said of the flag. "It's still in our hearts."
(Spc. Kate McGrath, C Company, 4th Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment , contributed to this story)