Greeter  Stories Of Interest

Star Spangled Banner Flag

48 Hours In The Life Of A Road Warrior
April 15, 2010

Update: May 2, 2010 Task Done, Honor Due.

An idea had been spawned.  After fifteen months of communications with the U.S. Navy, several Fortune 500 companies, and even the AAA, the idea led to those two famous words, Road Trip.  From most was heard, ‘You’re going to do WHAT?"  To those less faint of heart, and crazy Irishmen was heard ‘Let’s go!’  Actually, the first words were "head south!”  So, started an epic journey of the Pease Greeter Road Warriors to go south, to a place called the Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia.

The journey was uneventful in the beginning.  The fierce rainy weather had broken and wonderful Spring heat was felt.  The floods were just a painful memory. The states slipped by as in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut …Oh, if you hadn’t guessed by now we were driving. The pleasant unwavering car speeds were just glorious, and actually within the posted speed limit, until we entered the outskirts of New York.

Whereas, we had been hearing the pleasantries of passing birds and idyllic New England scenery; now came New York and the infamous George Washington Bridge.  Ironically, we saw the George Washington Bridge along with many, many others in ways never thought possible.  We saw it very, very slowly.  I took a picture for my friend Chuck A.  Everyone knows Chuck A. so I will not embarrass you.  This picture is for you!

                                                                   Hey  Chuck, do you know why I could take such a picture Chuck?  I was stuck underneath that bloody sign for over two hours.  You did that to us didn’t you? Chuck, George Washington crossed the Delaware in the middle of the freezing blizzard, two hundred years ago, faster than we crossed his bridge.

Since we had time to ponder, I should tell you why we were in such a predicament.  The Road Warriors were on their way to Norfolk, Virginia to retrieve a historic flag, The Star Spangled Banner Flag.  In fact, it is the only flag of its kind in United States history.  Time was of the essence.

Luckily, once we got over the George Washington Bridge everything was downhill.  We actually made incredible time downhill until we got all the way to Virginia in the wee, wee hours.  The only thing that stopped us now was the incredible steaks and prime rib at the Sage Restaurant in Virginia.

Man, that steak and seasoning was so good.  I would drive to get it, which I actual did for some ten hours.  The meal was incredible as southern cooking usually is.  It was even greater when a patron, Mrs. Stilwagen and her relatives joined us for some lively talk.  Her husband Bill Stilwagen, a Vietnam vet, runs a tour agency specializing in tours of Vietnam. Further information can be found at VietnamBattlefieldtours.com  As we left the restaurant the echoes of ‘You’re going to do WHAT?’ resonated in our heads. We made it to our hotel and pillows in good stead.  Hey, did I mention those fabulous steaks at the Sage Restaurant? Oh, for the legal beagles out there, the Pease Greeters does not endorse nor confirm the abilities of VietnamBattlefieldstours.com.  Consumers of this service should do their own due diligence.

The next day was a big day for us. We had a big presentation and would be picking up the historic flag.  Breakfast was cheery, which is what happens when the human body gets sleep in ample doses.  After a couple dozen cups of good coffee (the things we do for a good cup of coffee) we were joined by several members of Air Force National Guard.

We talked for hours and hours.  I would tell you about them and the important cargo they were flying on their C-17, but it would be a security breach.  All I can say is that I hope it arrived on ice.  Their final comments to us were, 'You’ve driven from where to do WHAT?’  We seemed to get a lot of comments like that.

We finally arrived at our destination.  The destination was the imposing headquarters of the Maersk Lines, Limited.  We were feted by the company’s Head of Security while viewing this.

If by queue he said, ‘You DROVE from where, to do WHAT?’

We received the historic, Star Spangled Flag, at 1121hrs and the pictures speak for themselves. Our thanks go out to all the levels of the Maersk Line, Limited employees for their professionalism and hospitality.  Of course, lunch was great,  We did some quick sightseeing.




Of course, I was quite nervous when I looked up from a slumber and saw the U.S.S. Wisconsin looming out my window.  My first instinct was to look at the crazy Irishman and imply that yes we were lost and not still in Virginia.  But yes, Virginia, there really is a battleship named Wisconsin in your backyard.

We settled in for a enthusiastic and satisfying journey back to the Northern Kingdom, when we were hit with a GARMIN glitch.  The nice letter to GARMIN about there magnificent GPS system was suddenly turning into a 35 mile glitch.  We resolved the GARMIN glitch by doing what normal people do, literally cross-country driving through medians and other sundry coordinates.

On the way home across the magnificent Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel we were in the zone and decided to play chicken with . . . the crazy Irishman let the LHD-1 U.S.S. Wasp win.

It would have been a great geometry problem.  A car going 65mph intersects with a 40,000 ton aircraft carrier going 25 knots.

The rest of the trip was uneventful as the states whirled past until Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and finally New Hampshire entered our front windshield.  The Road Warriors went from Tuesday at 0800 hours until Thursday 0500 hours for our soldiers, and a historic flag which everyone will see soon on permanent display at Portsmouth International Airport Terminal building at Pease International Tradeport with a plaque to read:

Star Spangled Banner Flag

The Victory Flag

An anonymous donor gave the displayed Star Spangled Banner Flag to a Pease Greeter member in early 2009.  It had been known to have flown on the U.S.S. Constitution although documentation was not forwarded with the flag.

As is the wont in most historical events, a series of unrelated situations added to the flags mystique.

On April 8th, 2009, Somalia pirates hijacked the 17,000 ton M/V Maersk Alabama, a US- flagged merchant ship during its route between Salalah, Oman and Mombasa, Kenya.

This led to a five-day hostage drama on the high sea that was ended by a successful Navy SEAL rescue mission.  This had been the first time pirates had taken a United State’s ship in over two hundred years!  The principal U.S. Navy ship involved in the rescue was none other than the U.S.S. Bainbridge, a historic irony.

On August 16th of 2009, Captain Richard Phillips, the rescued hostage from the Maersk Alabama was secreted in by the Pease Greeters Road Warriors to meet an early flight of US soldiers. 

On August 25th, 2009 the Pease Greeters Road Warriors visited Boston Naval Yard and the U.S.S. Constitution to acquire documentation and take pictures of the flags history.

With introductions from Captain Richard Phillips, the Road Warriors were able to proceed with a bold idea. The idea was to have the donated flag flown on all three ships that have fought and defeated piracy.

After many communications with US Navy officials, the Road Warriors were granted permission to send the flag.  On October 13th, 2009 on the 234th birthday of the great United States Navy, the flag was raised to the main mast of the U.S.S. Bainbridge. Many at the Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia witnessed this event.

With the assistance of the Maersk Line, Ltd.  North American office, the flag was transported to the M/V Maersk Alabama in the Seychelles Islands off Africa to be flown on February 22, 2010.  On March 16th, 2010 the intrepid Road Warriors provided a honor guard to retrieve the historic flag; traveling over 1457 miles in just over forty-eight hours.

Displayed is the only flag in American history to have flown on the only three US ships, across over two hundred years of history, to have battled piracy and won! Feel free to review the pictures and documents of this exhibit.

Dedicated to all those of the past and present military unselfishly battling all enemies of this country.

Sincere accolades are to be given to all those who were involved in this project!  

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The conclusions of this story here.

Contributors Road Warriors Dick Sweeney, Scott Mace and Jon Anderson.

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