After flying over the skies of Afghanistan and being carried on combat missions by members of the Alabama National Guard, an American and Alabama flag have returned home, where they were presented to House Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) on July 26.
The Alabama flag was originally sent to the soldiers serving in Afghanistan after Sgt. Johnny Box of E-Company, 1st platoon, 167 infantry of the 4th Alabama National Guard contacted Ford in September of last year to request a state flag for the unit to fly over their base in the Kunduz Province of Afghanistan.
“I am so thankful for our servicemen and women and the sacrifices they are making for us,” said Ford. “So when Sgt. Box asked me to send him a flag, I was humbled and honored. It seemed like the least I could do.”
In addition to being displayed at the base, the state flag was also carried by AH-64 Apache attack helicopter pilot, Maj. Christian “Gator” Hurst from Troy, during a combat mission over Kunduz.
“It means a lot to these guy’s to know someone at the state level cares about them,” said Box, who presented Ford with the flags.
“The flag may not seem [like] much in some people’s eyes, but for the men and women serving overseas, it’s the world.”
Box also presented Ford with an American flag that had been flown over the unit’s base and taken on missions in Ford’s honor.
“I am truly humbled by the honor that Sgt. Box and the soldiers of E-Company have shown me here today,” said Ford. “I cannot thank our men and women in uniform enough for their service to our country, and I am deeply honored and proud.”
Ford said it is common for his office to receive requests for state flags from schools or Alabama citizens serving in the military.
“Last year, my office was contacted by the family of Airman First Class Rex Harris from Huntsville, who was serving near Kabul,” said Ford. “He wanted a flag to hang in his barracks, and I was proud to send him one.”
Ford said he was not certain which government agency or department was responsible for handling requests for state flags, but added that his office receives a number of flags every year, and that he has always honored requests for state flags from Alabama citizens serving in the military.
“As a former soldier, I understand how your state flag can be a source of pride and a reminder of home,” said Ford. “That is why I always send a state flag to our men and women in uniform when they ask me for one.”