The American flag outside Bayside's American Martyrs Church once flew high above a U.S. military base in Iraq.
Hollis resident and Army reservist Master Sgt. Warren Forrest donated the flag after he serving in Iraq from 2005-06.
Church members and veterans joined Forrest at the church July 4 for the formal dedication of a new flagpole purchased by Post 1772 Catholic War Veterans and the flag raising.
"It is a very special day," Forrest said as he stood with his three children.
The morning ceremony started with a mass during which the Rev. Frank Schwarz blessed the flag and prayed for the safety of servicemen.
After the mass, the church emptied and the crowd gathered outside, including the 25 or so members of CWV 1772 in attendance. The veterans stood together outside and listened as Post Commander Ray Fortune said a few words about the post's history.
Then the highest ranking member of CWV 1772, Lt. Col. Dan Hennessy, joined Forrest in raising the flag.
Afterwards, Forrest was surrounded by his three children — Katelyn, 10; Christopher, 13; and Matthew, 16 — and wife Beth, whom he thanked for holding down the homefront while he was abroad.
Forest was drafted into the U.S. Army in May 1969. Prior to becoming an Army reservist in 1978, Forrest served as an infantry soldier in South Vietnam. Most recently, he was stationed at the Tallil Air Base in southeastern Iraq from November 2005 to November 2006. The flag flew over the base on Sept. 11, 2006, he said.
Forrest first donated the flag to the CWV 1772 in 2007 as a way to thank the group for its support. Fortune said it has been his dream for a while to bring the flag to the church, which is where the post holds its monthly meetings.
Soon a POW/MIA flag will wave beside Forrest's flag, Fortune said.
"[It's] to remember the people," he said.
For World War II veteran Joe Timpa the flag's presence at the church only seemed fitting.
"It has to be God, family and then country," he said. "It must all come together or you don't have a community."
©2008 Community News Group
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