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Face of Defense: Marine Dedicates U.S. Flag to Son

By Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Cifuentes
1st Marine Division Public Affairs

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan , May 16, 2012 – Marine Corps 1st Lt. Phillip M. Downey has a unique gift to present when his son is born: an American flag that flew 50 feet above the Task Force Leatherneck compound, April 28.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps 1st Lt. Phillip M. Downey salutes as the American flag is lowered during sunset at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, April 28, 2012. Downey is sending the flag home for his soon-to-be-born son. U.S. Marine Corps photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Downey is serving a year-long deployment in Helmand province with the 1st Marine Division. He said he doesn’t think he’ll be able to make it home in time to see the birth of his son, so he dedicated a flag to him instead.

“One day, I want him to understand that there was a reason why I wasn’t there,” said Downey, a 25-year-old St. Louis native.

Downey works in the combat operations center at the Task Force Leatherneck compound, the ground combat element command and control cell for Marine Corps operations here.

He deployed to Afghanistan in February, a few weeks after his girlfriend, Megan Black, announced she was pregnant. Although he was excited by the news, Downey said, the days leading up to the deployment “were interesting to say the least.” Black moved in with her parents, who live near Downey’s home station at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Downey’s job involves tracking and coordinating mission orders from the command element of the Marine air-ground task force in Afghanistan. One of the biggest problems he faces in keeping in touch with Black is the time difference with California. On a typical day, when Downey’s shift ends at 9 p.m., it’s 9:30 a.m. at home. “She only answers my emails late at night or early in the morning,” he said.

Downey’s son is due in September, the seven-month mark of his scheduled one-year Afghanistan deployment.

Downey said the flag he’s sending to his son will become a family heirloom.

“A lot of Marines dedicate their flags to their parents or family members who were former Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony B. Triplett, the administration chief for the commanding staff of Task Force Leatherneck and manager of the flag program. “To receive a flag that has flown over a Marine base in Afghanistan for a day means a lot to those people.”

Downey’s lineage includes two grandfathers who were soldiers during World War II, and two uncles who were soldiers in Vietnam. He said he hopes his wartime souvenir to his son will be passed on for generations.

Downey plans to frame the folded flag in a shadow box and hang it in his son’s room after he is born.

He said an American flag that was flown from sunup to sundown in Afghanistan should be a priceless gift at Black’s upcoming baby shower.

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