December 6, 2003, 10:36

Freedom flag flies in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Deputy Public Affairs Officer

The Freedom Flag flies alongside flags from the United States, Great Britain and Australia. (Contributed photo)

A flag that commemorates the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 has been making the rounds throughout Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to Lt. Col. Steven R. Swetnam, Lieutenant Colonel, Chief of Intelligence for 192nd Fighter Wing.

Swetnam deployed as part of the Virginia Air Guard's 192nd Fighter Wing Air Expeditionary Force rotation to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar from September to October 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “While deployed, my wife sent me several flags and amongst them was the Freedom Flag,” Swetnam said. “Mr. Richard Melito, Chairman of the Freedom Flag Foundation, gave my wife, Tricia and son Mercer two flags. One flag was a large flag and another was a hand-sewn flag made by a seamstress. All that was asked was to have the flag displayed some where on the base where U.S. servicemen and women could view it and be reminded of why they are deployed.”

According to their web site, the Freedom Flag Foundation is a non-profit organization formed to establish the Freedom Flag as a national symbol of remembrance for September 11, 2001 and to support educational efforts of teaching future generations about the tragic events and many lives lost on that date.

The large flag was turned over to the Protocol Office and they had it flown on Oct. 19 during a retreat Ceremony where it flew with the U.S. Flag, the Australian National Flag and the Union Jack.

“I also had the flag flown on two missions while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan,” Swetnam said. “One of the Flags was flown on an OIF missions by the 48 Fighter Wing F-15 E Strike Eagles based out of RAF Lakenheath, England. The other two were flown by Virginia Air Guardsmen once over Afghanistan and once over Iraq.”

One of Swetnam's troops, Capt. Charles A. Friend, took the flag to Kirkuk AB in Northern Iraq when he and another pilot went to brief Army and Air Force personnel on some joint operation issues.

Upon returning to the U.S., Swetnam presented Melito and Chip Harris, head of media relations for the Freedom Flag Foundation, with the original large flag and an American Flag along with the three Certifications documenting the mission's the flag flew. Swetnam was invited to attend the "Flags for Schools" kick-off fund raiser on November 22, 2003 at the Virginia Historical Society Museum.

Below is a timeline for the Freedom Flag:

  • November 12, 2001 - Freedom Flag adopted by Virginia Historical Society for use as centerpiece of September 11, 2002, museum exhibit working in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
  • February 21, 2002 - Virginia House of Delegates passes House Resolution HR58 and Senate of Virginia passes Senate Resolution SR46 Commending Richard Melito for Designing the Freedom Flag and offering full support for establishing the Freedom Flag as a National Symbol of Remembrance.
  • February 24, 2003 - Governor Mark R. Warner issues Gubernatorial Proclamation establishing the Freedom Flag as The Commonwealth of Virginia's Official Symbol of Remembrance for September 11, 2001
  • June 14, 2003 - Virginia's new State Symbol honoring September 11, 2001, the Freedom Flag, was dedicated before a public gathering on the grounds of the historic Virginia State Capitol complex. Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, representing the State leadership, dedicated and then presented this symbolic flag to the citizens of Virginia. Accepting Freedom Flag on behalf of Virginia's citizens and the families who lost loved ones on September 11.

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