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Vets march with battle-scarred Brooklyn flag in NYC Veterans Day Parade

Scorched in Desert Storm

November 11, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photo by Kathryn Kirk, Brooklyn Borough Hall
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A group of Brooklyn vets marched in the America’s Parade — the largest Veterans Day Parade in the country — proudly carrying a scorched and battered flag of the borough of Brooklyn.

White and fringed with gold, the flag carries the motto, “Eendraght Maeckt Maght,” which translated from early Dutch as, “In unity, there is strength.”

The flag was given in 1990 by then-Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden to the 102 Maintenance Company, 244th National Guard Division when the unit was assigned to the Persian Gulf in Operation Desert Storm.

It was scorched by burning fragments from an enemy Scud missile, which was shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile during an attack near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The flag was returned to Brooklyn at homecoming ceremonies for the 102nd Maintenance Company on Sept. 15, 1991.

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“Brooklyn has a proud military tradition, including the former supply base at the Brooklyn Army Terminal – the largest such site in the country through World War II, and the historic Fort Hamilton, which continues to support our region,” Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The spirit of One Brooklyn, along with the support and solidarity of its residents, was carried into battle through this flag that now stands proudly in Brooklyn Borough Hall as a tribute to the bravery of those men and women who brought it safely home,” he said.

While the parade took place in Manhattan on Tuesday, a Veterans Day ceremony was held at the Brooklyn War Memorial in Cadman Plaza Park. Rocco Vanasco, 89, said the gathering was an informal reunion of vets who have been working for more than 10 years, without success, to reopen the Brooklyn War Memorial building. 

“There are 12,000 names on that wall — people who never came back,” he said. He added that 25 of the names were friends of his from Fort Greene. “We used to play basketball, stickball.”

“People go to Washington to see the Wall, take pictures of the names. They don’t even know we have our own memorial in Brooklyn, but you can’t get in there. It’s the only one in the U.S. dedicated to WWII vets.”

New York City is a home to more than 225,000 veterans, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday at a Veterans Day breakfast. More than 52,000 of these veterans from all eras live in Brooklyn, according to UWVC.

These men and women, returning in greater numbers from Iraq and Afghanistan, face challenges that previous generations didn’t have to deal with, de Blasio said.  He introduced General Loree Sutton, the city’s new Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner, and said she would focus on combating veteran homelessness and unemployment.

De Blasio noted the history of military service in his own family.

“My wife and I both had parents from the World War II generation, and literally all four of our parents served in the war effort each in their own way,” he said. “My wife’s father was in the army in Europe, in France and Italy. Her mother was a classic Rosie the Riveter. She worked in the Springfield, Massachusetts armory making armaments for our troops overseas.

“My mother worked here in New York City at The Office of War Information helping to send broadcasts to then occupied Italy, the land of her parents. My father served in the Pacific Theater in the Army, in a number of battles including The Battle of Okinawa where he was grievously wounded, but thank God survived and came back,” de Blasio added.

Brooklyn flag presentation in October

BP Adams presented the Brooklyn veterans group with the flag during a celebration in October at Borough Hall.

“I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and went on to serve in the US Army in Vietnam War,” Patrick Gualtieri, executive director of the United War Veterans Council (UWVC), said during the presentation. “I assure you that this flag will be respected and featured during the parade.” UWVC produces the America’s Parade.

Sergeant Shamar Thomas, U.S. Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), said, “Like this flag, our nations’ veterans and their families wear the scars of war, prompting us to never forget. As we walk down 5th avenue for the Veterans Day Parade, we must never forget those who have come before us, who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that freedom persists. Semper Fi.”

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