January 11, 2002, 08:16 EST

Task Force Eagle soldiers conduct flag-raising tribute

by Maj. Ed Larkin &
Staff Sgt. John House

Virginia peacekeepers raise the flag of the Commonwealth during a New Years Day ceremony in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina. From left to right: SGT John Stephen Reynolds of Salem, Va; SPC Monica Cowden of Roanoke, Va; SGT Stephen Troy Schalizki of Lorton, Va; SSG Wayne M. Saylor of Broadway, Va; SSGT Gregory T. Wichert of Alexandria, Va; and SGT Walter H. Davis of Danville, Va. (Photo courtesy of 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

More than 100 soldiers, sailors, and airmen braved frigid temperatures and deep snow New Year's Day at Eagle Base to pay a flag-raising tribute to the 50 states of the United States.

The commander of Multi-National Division North (MND(N), Maj. Gen. H Steven Blum wanted an event during the holidays that demonstrated the union of America and the pride of the peacekeeping soldiers here. "Each time we show our unity, we clearly make a powerful point to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Blum. "We have a diverse force that represents all races, religions and cultures. Everyday we are here our diversity shows our strength."

In our country, from 1861 to 1865, the United States itself was divided and engaged in a civil war, over, among other things, states rights. In the end the union was preserved, the shameful practice of slavery was abolished, and the United States entered a long period of prosperity.

To launch 2002, one by one, each state flag flew proudly over Eagle Base in a land that owes much of its day-to-day peace to the American military and its Stabilization Force (SFOR) partners. The raising of the flags although a relatively simple gesture demonstrated deeply held feelings of patriotism.

"It is amazing the pride I felt pulling my state flag up the pole here at Eagle Base," said Pfc. Thomas Kozlowski of Oregon. "Yes, it is hard to be away from my family and friends, but I realize how proud I feel and how important it is to serve my country."

Blum requested a flag from each of the states' governors and adjutant generals. In that request, he also asked that the flag first be flown over the state capitol or state military headquarters before being sent here, thus strengthening the connection to home. The flags and the names of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen will become part of the 29th Infantry Division's permanent history. In the future, the state flags will fly at division changes of command and other division military ceremonies.

"I believe in the strength and resolve of America and I believe in the strength and resolve of these young service members. They are truly the best of our great country," said Blum. The SFOR 10 rotation is referred to as the "Team of Teams". Composed of 75 percent reserve forces and 25 percent active duty, it is the model for the One Army concept.

Service members cheered each state flag as it was raised up the flagpole while they waited to unfurl their own. After all the flags were raised, the 29th Division (Light) band aptly played a spirited rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, as the American Flag was hoisted.

The Area Support Group (ASG) and the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) teams provided hot drinks and food for the event to ward off the chill.

"When I look back, I will remember this day as one of the high points of my tour in Bosnia," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Shanda De Anda of Alaska. "This is truly one of the many things that makes our country great, we have so many different people and thoughts. Yet we all stand together from different places in the U.S. but, under one flag."

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