CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — It is the spirit of freedom soaring honorably as the epitome of virtuous ideals and liberties so vigorously fought for and defended. They are colors of purity, valor and justice stitched together by the grace of the independence, equality and allegiance that united a nation.
From its raising during the battle of Iwo Jima, to its placement on the moon's surface at Tranquility Base, to its flying above the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings after the 9/11 attacks — the American Flag has gloriously reflected American progress, pride and hope.
It is a deep understanding and appreciation for Old Glory and the essence of America that one noncommissioned officer at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, said has given him a sense of dignity and respect that he is intent to share and spread.
“Staff Sgt. Curtis N. Thornton (photo left) is unapologetically patriotic, from his attitude to the clothes he wears. He loves his country and it is evident in everything he does. From carrying the flag during running events to having a vast amount of professional knowledge and constantly taking care of people — he exemplifies the American ideals,” said Pfc. Andrew M. Vice, a satellite system communications operator/maintainer and one of Thornton's Soldiers in 56th Signal Company, 54th Signal Battalion, 160th Signal Brigade.
As a platoon sergeant, Thornton makes it a priority to encourage strong values and purpose in those put in his charge.
“Pride is an essential part of leadership. Without pride in what you do and who you belong to, you become lethargic. I try to instill the pride I feel not only in country, but in the unit and team, in my Soldiers so they can spread it on to others,” said Thornton. “I encourage them to get out to the various physical events around Camp Arifjan that they feel they can't do. Soldiers need those positive outlets and can learn that they are capable of far more than they thought.”
Thornton, a native of Hesperia, Calif., described his most notable act of patriotism as carrying a large flag during running events. He's completed about 40 miles with the flag in the five months he's been in Kuwait.
“I feel that running while carrying the flag not only inspires others to push themselves a little harder, but also motivates me to continue on. It's hard to slow down and nearly impossible to stop when you are carrying the nation's colors,” said Thornton.
During the second annual March for the Fallen, hosted by the Pennsylvania National Guard, April 27-28, Thornton and his Soldiers completed a 28-mile relay using an American flag as their baton.
“Carrying the flag represented the values and freedoms that our fallen comrades lost their lives defending,” said Thornton whose team marched in honor of one of his friends, Spc. Ryan Walker, who was killed in action while serving in Iraq.
Thornton added that he hoped the march would teach his young soldiers a little bit more about those who have gone before them. Thornton had his team fold and case the flag carried in the march and sent it to Wounded Warrior Inc. in Pennsylvania.
“I didn't really grow up patriotic. I would say the catalyst was when I deployed during the invasion of Iraq. The things that I saw really put things into perspective and made me realize how truly great our freedoms are. This was compounded by the humanitarian and heroic acts I witnessed by my fellow soldiers,” said Thornton who deployed with Third Infantry Division for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and deployed twice more to Iraq during his 11 years of service.
Thornton helps his community and further expresses his patriotism by volunteering with the Warrior Brotherhood Veteran's Motorcycle Club and leading the Kuwait chapter of Team Red, White and Blue. Team RWB is an organization devoted to enriching the lives of veterans through promoting physical activity.
"I became involved with both organizations because they support Veterans and do so while incorporating two things I love; motorcycles and physical activities,” said Thornton. “I just feel a deep sense of pride that, despite our problems, the people always find a way to overcome and become better. There are so many people that truly care about others and are willing to put aside differences to help their fellow Americans.”
His respect for his nation and its colors has helped bring those around him together with a stronger sense of purpose.
|Staff Sgt. Curtis N. Thornton, a platoon sergeant with 56th Signal Company, 54th Signal Battalion, 160th Signal Brigade, carries the American flag while running during the Team Rubicon and Team Red, White and Blue sponsored 5K at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on May 18, 2013. Carrying the flag during running events and volunteering with Team Red, White and Blue are just a few ways Thornton reflects the patriotism he wishes to share and spread to others. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ashley M. Outler, Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs)|
“Staff Sgt. Thornton reminds everyone that they are a part of the finest country on earth and gets them pumped up for America,” said Pfc. Matthew P. Mursewick, satellite communications technician, 56th Sig. Co., 54th Sig. Bn., 160th Sig. Bde. “I have seen it first hand, while running with him and his beautiful flag; people cheering, saluting and running to catch up. His patriotism is contagious. You can see sheer motivation come out in other Soldiers just because of his love for his country.”
Thornton's soldiers also describe his intelligence, thoughtfulness and approachability to be traits that make him respectable, but all reflect the values instilled by strong American pride. They are also the qualities that he raises daughter Alison with.
“To me patriotism shouldn't be something that you have because of a singular event for a few days or weeks or only on holidays,” said Thornton. “If you are proud of your country you should be proud of it all the time."
Article and photos by U.S. Army Sgt. Ashley M. Outler
Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs
Provided through DVIDS
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