After 10,000 mile journey, US flag is presented to YMCA

Staff Sergeant Patel and his family are joined by Marilyn King during the presentation of the flag at the Rockwall YMCA on June 15, 2012. Photo by Blue Ribbon News.

Flag Day celebration at Rockwall YMCA marks strong  military family connection

(Rockwall) June 17, 2012 – Prior to the backyard barbecues, fireworks and patriotic parades that mark the Fourth of July in America, there’s Flag Day – the birthday of the United States flag – an opportunity for Americans to celebrate and show respect for the Stars and Stripes.

While Flag Day is less recognized than Independence Day or Memorial Day, June 14 is a day set aside for Americans to fill their hearts and homes with red, white and blue, commemorating the day in 1777 that the Continental Congress passed an official resolution “that the flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternating red and white; that the Union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representation a new constellation.”

The certificate reads, in part: “Let it be known this flag was proudly flown in an Aeromedical Evacuation combat mission over the County of Afghanistan for the Rockwall YMCA. The 651st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron proudly flew this flag onboard a C-130J “Super Hercules” in support of Operation Enduring Freedom…02 January 2012.” Photo by Blue Ribbon News.

In honor of Flag Day, the Rockwall Family YMCA hung a very special plaque and United States flag inside the facility. This particular flag has been on a journey of more than 10,000 miles, capturing memories of wartime and signifying ongoing support and commitment to the people of Afghanistan, and all the sacrifices of the men and women of the Armed Forces and involved NATO countries.

“In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, this flag was specially flown for the Rockwall YMCA at Garrison Command in in the C130, while conducting a routine medical mission to Bagram Airfield,” explained Staff Sergeant Vipulkumar Patel, who presented the flag to the Y. “On behalf of my Unit, 350th Human Resources Company, my family and individuals who made this happen, I am very thankful to the YMCA, its staff, and the local community to honor and display such history wrapped in the U.S. colors.”

Marilyn King, a fitness instructor and member of the Rockwall YMCA board of management, has been instrumental in maintaining a “military family connection” at the Y. Despite suffering the loss of her own husband recently, Marilyn’s gift for making others feel at home at the Y has only deepened. She was with Patel during the presentation of the flag.

Staff Sergeant Patel

Marilyn’s friendship with the Patel’s began a little more than a year ago, when the family first came to Rockwall. Having been part of a military family herself, and understanding what it is like to move a lot with the military, Marilyn welcomed the Patel’s with open arms. When the Staff Sergeant Patel had to leave for Afghanistan, Marilyn assured him that she would check in on his wife to make sure she was OK while he was gone. Patel said that this kind gesture helped him serve our country, knowing that there was support and care for his family back home.

“Marilyn goes above and beyond making people feel connected at the Y, especially seniors and military families,” said Liz Jones, Membership and Wellness Director.  “Not only does she connect people to the Y, but she connects members to each other. One of our members, a young man in his 20s, was going to Ranger school. When he returned, he brought Marilyn a Ranger flag and told her that he had felt so welcomed by her when he came to the YMCA, that he wanted her to have it. That flag is hung up in our weight room. Many of the military folks that come in have expressed their appreciation for it. They began asking about it, and wanted to get to know the young man who brought it in.”

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