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    Patriot Flag Unfurled at GTMO

    Patriot Flag Unfurled at GTMO

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson | U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Owens, religious programs noncommissioned...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson 

    133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - In the early morning hours of June 20, before the call to post signaled Troopers to salute for the “Star-Spangled Banner,” 170 hands joined together in unfurling the Patriot Flag – a 30-foot-by-54-foot symbol of freedom, patriotism, honor and remembrance, at the base of the Camp Justice, U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    “This is something I knew I had to do when I was chosen, along with Captain Al Fuentes, to represent the New York City Fire Department at the trial,” said retired New York City Fire Lt. Joe Torrillo, a 9/11 survivor.

    “It was all I needed to super-psych me up to know that once I got here, (I would) not only put a face on evil and hatred, but would open up that American flag and hopefully make everybody in the United States of America aware of how important it is to support people in the military and to stand up for this country and resurrect patriotism,” he said.

    “To have it displayed right here in Guantanamo, Cuba, with the hopes that people all over the country would be able to see it and share that experience – hopefully it will set a spark off with every single American and hopefully we can get America herself back into the center of the pedestal where she belongs,” he said.

    Torrillo, with the help of Mitch Mendler and Wayne Louth, has made it his life’s journey and mission to keep the memory of 9/11 alive. What started as a silly idea, according to Torrillo, has turned into a labor of love and moving expression of loyalty to first responders, military personnel and the freedoms of Americans.

    It began Sept. 10, 2010, with a cross-country tour from San Diego, Calif., hitting all 50 states in Patriot Ceremonies. Then, on Sept. 11, 2011, 10 years after the attacks that triggered the Global War on Terror, the flag flew in Shanksville, Pa., at the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., and New York City, N.Y. From there, it continued on to Washington, D.C., and Fort McHenry, Md., where the “Star-Spangled Banner” was written.

    But unfurling the flag at Camp Justice was full of such raw emotion and enormous pride that it nearly brought the man who has traveled the country recounting his memories of 9/11, and shaking hands with countless Americans to tears.

    “To hear the national anthem played – and to have so many Service members holding the flag that I put all this work into, it will probably be etched in my mind and in my heart as the fondest day in my life,” he said. “I can’t imagine that I’ll ever experience a day that will top this.”

    A strong statement for the man who has thrown out the first pitch for the New York Yankees in Anaheim, Calif.

    “I thought that day was as big as it got being a Yankee fan, and being able to throw the first pitch to Derek Jeter. As much of an honor as that was, this here supersedes it a thousand times over.”

    And the feelings were mutual for the 85 Troopers and civilians from each Service branch and offices represented at GTMO. As some silently held the fabric that binds us together and others recounted memories of 9/11, deployments they’ve had after 9/11 or memories of those lost because of 9/11, the sun shined brightly on the flag, the Troopers, the memories of patriots who
    have gone before us.

    “It got me a little choked up,” said Senior Airman Mario Trevino, a plumber with the Base Emergency Engineering Force.

    “I’ve folded maybe one other flag, nothing this big, so it gave me a good amount of a sense of pride,” he said. “I felt a little bit closer to everybody.”

    For Torrillo, as the Troopers here continue their mission, he will continue along with his. He hopes to escort the flag to Afghanistan and Iraq and possibly South Africa. No matter where he takes the Patriot Flag, Torrillo’s message, he said, is clear.

    “Sometimes you think, ‘how would you find the proper words and arrange them in logical sentences that would convey your heartfelt feelings about their commitment, their dedication and their loyalty,’ and you just don’t quite know how you would come across effectively.

    “So on behalf of everybody in the United States of America, I want to thank every man and woman who has ever served, who is currently serving and for those who will serve in the future, for you know all of your commitment is not in vain,” he said.



    Date Taken: 06.20.2013
    Date Posted: 07.01.2013 11:13
    Story ID: 109565
    Hometown: NEW YORK, NY, US
    Hometown: SAN DIEGO, TX, US

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    Patriot Flag Unfurled at GTMO