By Spc. Tobey WhiteJanuary 29, 2011
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2011 -- A color guard of Soldiers from Company B., 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, Airborne, raised a flag up the flagpole at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan on Jan. 24.
It's an act performed every day by U.S. Soldiers across Afghanistan and, indeed, across the world. This flag, however, is different. It's one that has been flown at Ground Zero in New York City after 9/11, and holds special meaning to the 404th Soldiers, based out of Fort Dix, N.J., many of whom are from the New Jersey and New York areas.
The flag has been traveling around Regional Command - East, Afghanistan, visiting FOBs while in the care of 404th Command Sgt. Major Michelle Fournier, who is the keeper of those colors since March 1, 2010. She is also a resident of New York City.
The flag will be returned to Ground Zero in July of 2011 and put on display at the Ground Zero Museum. Certificates of Freedom from each group the flag visited will also be inducted into the museum, along with the flag.
"The flag is symbolic of America and the strength of Americans," Fournier said.
For many of the Soldiers in the 404th, the flag represents a day that has been burned into their memory. Maj. Paul Ferreira, commander of Company B, 404th and a resident of New York City grew up in the shadow of the World Trade Center. He said that he'd watched it fall on Sept. 11, and lost friends when it came down.
Ferreira said this was the first time he'd seen the WTC flag raised while in Afghanistan. The flag held personal meaning for him, he added.
He wasn't the only one who remembered where he was that day. Lt. Col Teresa Wolfgang, commander of the 404th and a resident of New York City, said she was in Dallas when the planes hit. Her uncle worked in the Pentagon and had left work 40 minutes before the plane hit, destroying his office.
Being stewards of the flag is a great obligation for her battalion, and one undertaken with pride, Wolfgang said. They try to get the flag to as many FOBs as possible and are often greeted with gratitude by Soldiers who simply want to see the flag or take photos with it.
"It's important for it to make the rounds because 9/11 is where it all started," Wolfgang said. "We always have to remember how this started so we can continue forward."
Company B, 404th 1st Sgt. Dennis Hicks, also a resident of New York City, has seen the WTC flag raised twice.
"Circulating the flag shows the attacks of 9/11 haven't diminished what the American flag stands for," said Hicks.