By Staff Sgt. Matthew ZierMarch 26, 2011
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, March 26, 2011 -- A somber mood was felt in the crowd as the 462nd Movement Control Battalion transferred American and New York City Fire Department flags to the 77th Sustainment Brigade on March 20, 2011.
The ceremony marked the final time this particular set of flags will transfer from one New York state/New Jersey Army Reserve unit to another serving in the Middle East. The flags have been passed from one unit to the other for the past seven years.
As the two units stood at parade rest, a video depicting the terrorist attacks, the rescue efforts thereafter and the forging of steel for the U.S. Navy warship aptly named the USS New York, was shown to ceremony participants and attendees. Tear welled up in the eyes of some of the Soldiers who were moved by their memories of that infamous day, or had lost someone in the attacks.
Participating in the transfer ceremony for the 462nd were Lt. Col. Michael Bulter and Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Smith. For the 77th, Col. Stephen Falcone and Command Sgt Maj. Nagee Lundee took possession of the flags. Also participating, Capt. Chris Linto of the Camp Arifjan Fire Department stood in to represent the firefighters of the New York Fire Department.
"It has been nearly four months since our Battalion participated in this type of event. On Veterans Day of last year, we received the Ground Zero flags displayed before you today," said Butler. "We are grateful that we were chosen to continue the tradition of safekeeping the Ground Zero flags."
An Army Reservist, Col. Neil Skow, flew the flags over Ground Zero for four months after 9/11. Skow, being a Citizen-Soldier himself, served with the New York Fire Department Ladder Company Two during the events of 9/11. During the initial rescue efforts, Skow's company lost 10 firefighters.
In 2003, Skow deployed to Iraq as commander of the 413th Quartermaster Battalion, taking both flags with him. Since then, the flags have been passed on to various units from the New York state and New Jersey area and flown with pride and honor during each unit's tour. Since the rotation began, the 773rd Transportation Company, 306th Military Police Battalion, 962nd Ordnance Company, 304th Transportation Company, and 462nd Movement Control Battalion have all had the privilege of carrying these flags into a combat zone and transferring them from one unit to the next, carrying on the tradition.
Butler continued, "As time passes, occasions such as today become increasingly important, as we owe those who gave their lives proper homage. I had the duty and responsibility as one of the guardians of these flags, which symbolize liberty, sacrifice, strength, and the resolve of a nation, to ensure that we properly continued to pay our respects."
Butler was one of the first responders on 9/11, serving as a New York City police officer. Butler admitted he was not the only one within the brigade to have a personal connection to that Tuesday morning in September of 2001.
"The sacrifices made that morning resonate with our unit. Six Citizen-Soldiers from the 77th gave their lives that day. Since then, five more Soldiers from the 77th died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are humbled to wear the patch on our uniform sleeves that represents the service and sacrifice of all these patriots," said Butler.
It seems fitting that the 77th is the last Reserve unit to have this honor. During Sept. 11, the 77th was activated to help with the recovery and clean up efforts in and around Ground Zero. Later next year, the 77th Sustainment Brigade is due to carry the flags back to New York City, where they will present the New York Fire Department with the flags for permanent display in their headquarters.