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‘Fly the Flag’ Program Reaches Milestone in Iraq

By Army Spc. Stephanie Cassinos
Special to American Forces Press Service

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, Dec. 30, 2009 – Soldiers in Iraq fly dozens of donated U.S. flags each day outside of Multinational Division South’s headquarters here as part of the “Fly the Flag” program.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Multinational Division South’s commander, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, Command Sgt. Maj. Doug Julin, and members of “Serving our Troops” observe Army 2nd Lt. Kenneth Toole flying the 3,000th flag over Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq, as part of the “Fly the Flag” program Dec. 18, 2009.

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

“When I took on this program, I never thought it would be this popular,” said Army 2nd Lt. Kenneth Toole, assigned to the division’s visitors’ bureau.

“But when I am out there flying flags,” Toole said, “it’s not just an American flag that I am flying. I am doing something for someone else.”

The visitors’ bureau flew its 3,000th flag here Dec. 18. One of the flown flags was presented to members of Serving Our Troops, an organization that has hosted steak dinners in St. Paul, Minn., Kuwait and Basra for soldiers and their families.

Toole and other members of the bureau daily tote dozens of donated U.S. flags to the flagpole at the entrance of the division’s headquarters building. There, they diligently raise, properly salute, lower and carefully fold each and every flag, while passers-by come to attention to pay tribute to the Stars and Stripes.

Soldiers who volunteer their time to fly the flags find the experience a meaningful one, Toole said.

The donated flags, he said, represent “a true gift from the heart.”

The program “isn’t just about the flags,” Toole pointed out, adding it “is about doing something for someone else and being part of something bigger.”

The U.S. flags that have been unfurled in Iraq, Toole said, will be displayed in American homes and offices in honor of servicemembers’ accomplishments and sacrifices in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The program has been a great success and it has been an honor to fly the flags over Basra,” Toole said.

The last day flags will be flown for the program is Jan 2, 2010. It is estimated that by that time the visitor’s bureau will have flown more than 3,500 flags, a number that exceeds Toole’s goal of 1,000.

(Army Spc. Stephanie Cassinos serves with Multinational Division South public affairs.)

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