AME raises American soldier's flag from Afghanistan
Raising the American flag over Anna Maria Elementary School at the start of the school day was a special honor Tuesday, May 11.
Students gathered around the flagpole in front of the school administration building with special guests Nancy Ambrose, the Rev. Bill Grossman and Ed Callan of Harvey Memorial Community Church and the honor guard from Kirby Stewart American Legion Post No. 24 in Bradenton to raise an American flag given to the school by Army Maj. Rick Ely.
Ely served at Bagram Air Base, 40 miles north of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, where he was executive officer of a helicopter maintenance battalion. Ely and his crew were the recipients of care packages sent by Harvey Church through its "Project Soldier's Heart," a vision of Navy veteran Ed Callan.
Within the care packages were letters written by students from Island Middle School and AME. Ely not only took the time to write a personal response to each student's letter, but he sent them the American flag that flew over his base on Humanitarian Aid Day, a day when service personnel volunteered at nearby schools and hospitals.
AME also received a certificate of authenticity stating that this flag was "flown in the face of the enemy, and bears witness to the destruction, capture, detention and interrogation of terrorist forces threatening the freedom of the United State of America and the World."
Ambrose received a letter from Ely to read at the flag-raising ceremony. Here is his message:
I want to tell all the people of Anna Maria Island thank you for your support and patriotism. All of your thoughts, prayers and concerns touched my heart during my time away from my family.
Now I know the time I spent away from my family is a small price to pay for the freedom we enjoy. Many of you probably did not realize what impact you could have.
It's because of caring people, like yourselves, that I will not hesitate to do my job when called upon. You are what makes a soldier a soldier. You give us the patriotism to do our job. Without it, you would not have the soldier to protect the freedom of the United States.
The flag presented to you flew over Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Humanitarian Aid Day, March 25, 2004.
It represents a small token of my appreciation for all that you have done. It is meant to thank each of you for your support and dedication to our great nation in its fight against terrorism.
Your thoughtfulness and patriotism for our country is truly appreciated by all soldiers and has touched more people than you can ever imagine. You all have made a big difference.
Please tell the children from Anna Maria Island Elementary School and Island Middle School that their efforts do make a difference and have brought some love and warmth to a soldier on the other side of the world.
God Bless each and everyone of you.
Major Rick Ely, XO, Task Force Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom IV, Afghanistan