The day I got a flag

  • Published
  • By Gina Sclafani
  • Writer, Blogger
Editor's note: This is Gina Sclafani's experience corresponding with an Airman assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron during his time supporting OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. She is a writer and blogger living in New York.

I didn't own [an American flag], and one day [an Airman assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron] sent me one from a combat zone as a heartfelt thank you. As July 4th approaches and more flags adorn more places, I thought I'd share the story of how I got mine.

No outdoor space

I live in an apartment building in New York. While some people have yards or balconies, I don't. Hanging things outside your window, many stories above unsuspecting pedestrians, is frowned upon here more than large sodas. Living vertically means certain safety considerations. When I lived in the suburbs we had a flag on the porch, but the porch stayed with the house. When I crossed the city line, owning a flag never crossed my mind.

"You have a package from Afghanistan"

In my volunteer experience, emails are easy to exchange but letters are mostly from here to there, so if I received correspondence from "the sandbox" I was very touched. On this particular day I was not only surprised to have a package, but by the contents as well.

[Service members] will have flags flown at bases or in this case, carried aboard aircraft, in honor of someone. It's a way to say thanks. I never knew about this tradition until that day.

I was pen pals with an Airman and before he came home, he decided to do this for me. It seems that sharing funny stories about my daughter Sofia and the care packages we sent helped him through a difficult period and painful losses. He never shared what he was going through at the time, so I had no idea how much the little things we did meant to him.

I opened the box.

When I held the flag in my hands I was very moved, thinking about where it had been and his reasons for sending it. Underneath the flag I found a certificate. The words "combat mission" made something I know is serious and dangerous seem even more real and, as always, made me wish for an outbreak of world peace.

Seeing the words, "for Gina and Sofia" also struck me. We were strangers who wrote to him through Soldiers' Angels, , yet he and all the [other Service members], do what they do for the people they love and for the vast majority of us who they do not know and will never meet.

Happy Independence Day

Friends, family, red, white and blue cupcakes, beaches, barbeques and fireworks; I wish you a happy holiday, whatever you're doing and I thank our troops everywhere for helping to ensure we can celebrate our country's birthday yet again.
While my flag still remains indoors, I'm very grateful to have it.