Tattered Red, White and Blue Stirs Deep Emotions
(June 25, 2010)
Col. Chuck A.E. Sexton folds the American flag
that travels with him on his deployments. Photo by Spc. Gregory Gieske
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq (June 22, 2010) – “I
pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of
America, and to the republic for which it stands...”
It goes by many names – Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes,
and the Red, White and Blue – but, no matter what you call
it, the United States flag represents a free and unified
country, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.
However, for one U.S. servicemember, one single, specific,
U.S. flag provides a far more personal representation.
Although worn, tattered, and frayed at the edges, it has
witnessed the highs and lows of six different military
deployments and has flown in five different countries.
It's more than just the cloth and material, though, which
gives this flag its special meaning. It represents the cause
for which Soldiers have given their lives. It represents the
Soldiers who serve their country, putting themselves into
harm's way, preserving the freedoms we enjoy today.
This specific flag has special meaning for Col. Chuck E. A.
Sexton, the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Commander, 3rd
Infantry Division, who has carried it with him for the past
24 years. The respect he has for this flag is a quality
bestowed upon him by his parents.
“Both my mother and father's families were immigrants to the
United States who left Europe to get away from oppression
and slavery in
Eastern and Western Europe,” said Col. Sexton, a
New York City native. “When they came to this
country, they valued the country so much they
defended it during World War II. They taught me
as a kid growing up, to always respect my
country and flag.”
Respect for the flag has carried over to Col. Sexton's
military service. After his initial enlistment in the Army
as a private, he was commissioned as an Infantry second
lieutenant in July 1985.|
“It's a part of you. It's something that's very comforting
to bring with me each time I go,” said the self-assured New
Yorker. “When I flew it in Somalia, it got some battle
damage there. It also got some damage in the first Gulf War.
It's very comforting to have it with you. Usually I keep it
folded now, because it's frayed at the edges in a couple of
places and it's got some shrapnel rips in it.
“In the first Gulf War the stars and stripes got a little
greyer from the oil fires. It took a little bit of shrapnel
from Iraqi artillery and it put a couple of rips in it. The
wind was really strong then, so it kind of unraveled a
little bit at the ends, too.”
Colonel Sexton said he remembers with clarity a windy day,
Feb. 27, 1991, after capturing the Jalibah Airfield, a place
south of Tallil, along Highway 8, during Operation Desert
“After we captured the airfield, at eight o'clock in the
morning and things were still smoking, we pulled out our
flags because we had them stowed during the attack. I
mounted mine on top of the track. It was for a good reason –
part of it was for morale and the other was so we wouldn't
get hit by our own aircraft. It was a really good feeling to
see the good old Stars and Stripes unfurled and flying in
the breeze. You heard a lot of the guys cheering and it was
a good feeling, seeing that flag flying.”
It flew every day, and was then re-folded until his next
deployment, when he was called to serve in Somalia in 1993,
where it was unfurled and once more flew on a daily basis.
“Now, when someone asks me to re-enlist them, or asks me to
promote them, I always bring it with me,” said Col. Sexton.
“It's kind of neat to look over the last 20-plus years and
the number of people that have stood under that flag with
their hands up swearing an oath – either an oath of
re-enlistment, or an oath to our nation. It's easily in the
“It's even neater to watch the Soldiers you've been with. It
causes it to become more tangible and more of a living
thing. That is the most critical part – it represents the
people. That's what makes our country great. It's the people
it represents, instead of one specific leader. The flag
talks about that continuity,” he said, with a knowing smile.
By Army Maj. Stephen Holt|
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public
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