Legacy - Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past.
A few months ago I was visiting Fort Benning, GA as guest at the home of SFC Kevin Rice (Battle Co ROCK Paratrooper from OEF VIII) and his family. Kevin told me that he had something he wanted to give to me. Unfortunately both of us forgot about it and I left Fort Benning without it.
Three weeks ago I saw SFC Rice again. This time he had the item with him and gave it to me. Yeah, I got all emotional. I don't think I'd be human if I didn't.
He gave me this:
Now some of you may be thinking, "hmmm, so he gave you a 173d flag." And you would be right, of course. BUT when he gave me the flag he told me its story. I'm not sure if the photo is of good enough quality for you to see the dirt and dust stains on it but they are there.
This flag was physically with one of the 2-503d Soldiers on the jump into Iraq in OIF 1 and has been taken on every deployment to Afghanistan by a ROCK Paratrooper as well. Those dirt stains are a testiment to the fact that this flag has been in Iraq and in more than one place in Afghanistan.
SFC Rice is one of a fairly small group of Paratroopers who know that, in 2011, I was made an Honorary Member of the Regiment. He told me that he wanted me to have the flag because he knew that I would ensure it continues to go on any deployment with the ROCK in the future. I wish there were words more powerful than humbled, honored and privileged because none of those even come close to how I feel that SFC Rice and the ROCK Paratroopers have entrusted me with this flag and its continued legacy. I cannot even begin to image all of the memories this flag holds for them.
The 2-503d (and the entire 173d Brigade) are about to deploy to Afghanistan again. This will be the unit's fourth deployment to Afghanistan. Knowing that this flag MUST go on that deployment I set about to make that happen.
I'm a member of several facebook pages related to the 173d and the 2-503d. I remembered reading that Dawn Paola-Galante was planning a trip to Italy to visit her son, PFC Matthew Galante, in the near future. So I reached out to Dawn and her husband Bryan (former Paratrooper with the 82nd) to ask if Dawn would mind hand carrying the flag to Italy with her. I didn't want to run the risk of mailing the flag to Italy.
Dawn graciously (and I might add, excitedly) agreed that she would absolutely hand carry the flag with her and deliver it personally to SFC Bobby King who will take the flag when he deploys to Afghanistan later this year. She and her husband repeatedly told me it is an honor to be a part of continuing this legacy.
I am grateful to SFC Rice for entrusting me with this incredible part of the history and legacy of the ROCK. I am also grateful to Dawn for assisting in getting the flag to Italy. I am so thankful to SFC King for agreeing to be the keeper of the flag on the upcoming deployment. Such teamwork.
I am currently working on writing the history of the flag so that one day, God willing, when there are no more wars, it can be displayed in an appropriate place and manner.
Such a legacy. Such an honor. AIRBORNE!!! The ROCK!!!