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A National Symbol of the Spirit of America

By Sgt. Michael Hjelmstad | | May 28, 2002

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The recovering spirit of New York City was marked by the return of a ground zero flag during the 15th Annual Fleet Week celebration showing a strong sense of patriotism in the days leading up to Memorial Day. 
Marine Day, held in Central Park as part of Fleet Week, was highlighted by the return of one of the three nationally recognized Ground Zero flags on Saturday.  Maj. David C. Andersen, Director of the New York City Public Affairs office in New York City returned the flag to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
"This flag is a living memorial that represents all that is good." Said Andersen.
The flag made it?s way from ground zero to the hands of the Emergency Service Unit where friends and families of the victims started sporadically signing it.  The NYPD decided to turn the flag over to the United States Marine Corps who were already engaged in combat with hostile forces in Afghanistan.
Former Marine Sergeant John P. Durkin, NYPD ESU delivered the flag to Andersen who then delivered it to the Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) aboard the USS BATAAN.
The Marines agreed to carry the flag into combat.  It was flown on the Bataan and then carried ashore by the Marines and flown at a flag raising ceremony over the captured Kandahar Airport.
?We?re returning this flag from the initial spot of the hostile attack on our nation, to America?s 911 force who flew it in the face of the enemy on their homeland and then back to not only the NYPD, but the people of New York City and America.? said Andersen.
Now back home, the ground zero flag has made many monumental appearances in New York City with service members who are here for Fleet Week.  The homecoming debut was at the Commanding Officer/Executive Officer?s Reception hosted by the Navy League at the New York Athletic Club on Tuesday.
Next the flag accompanied Marines and sailors to Good Morning America where it was the center piece of a live segment in Times Square.  The network then treated service members to a gourmet breakfast and welcomed them to New York City.
The Flag was then officially and symbolically returned to the city at a ceremony in Central Park where members of the New York City Police Department were present to welcome home the national ensign that made a full circle surviving the attack on the World Trade Center, flying in the face of terrorism, and returning to New York.
The Flag was raised over the Amphibious Assault Ship USS IWO JIMA currently at port in New York City for Fleet Week.  The IWO JIMA resembles a small aircraft carrier and is designed to put troops on hostile shores. 
On Memorial Day the ground zero flag flew over the New York Mets game played at Shea Stadium and where Marine Major General Jack Davis, Commanding General, 4th Marine Division, threw the opening pitch.
"This flag that is a symbol of the September 11 tragedy and a reminder of those lost is true Memorial Day tribute that now represents a sense of healing and a renewed patriotism." Said Davis.  "It will continue to fly in New York as a constant reminder and an honor to those lost."  The next scheduled event for the flag is the June 16 Mets verses Yankees game that will be seen on ESPN Baseball.

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