HAVERHILL, Mass. — Army combat veteran Michael Frost says if the American flag he carried into combat could speak, it would tell a harrowing tale or two.
It was with him during two tours of duty, including on one day in Afghanistan in 2007, when several Afghan soldiers under his command were killed in an ambush and he was thrown into the air by an explosive device, landing on his back on a boulder.
Lying there, unable to move, he was shot in the leg.
"Wherever bullets flew, that flag was with me," Frost said.
He said he carried the flag in his rucksack and whenever he set up camp in a combat zone, such as in the mountains of Afghanistan, he would fly the American colors.
At times he'd tie it to a long stick that he transported on a donkey and would plant the stick in the ground.
"It was my own base flag," Frost said. "Snipers would shoot at it, giving us time to locate them and shoot back."
If you drove past City Hall yesterday, you saw the same flag flying in front of the building.
Yesterday morning, Mayor James Fiorentini fulfilled Frost's wish to have his combat flag displayed in his own country.
"We're proud to have you as a native son," Fiorentini said during a ceremony honoring Frost for his military service.
Frost's flag was hoisted up the flag pole in front of City Hall, where it was to fly for 24 hours and then be returned to him.
"This flag was flown at a combat base and to bring it home and have it flown in honor of those he (Frost) served with is unique," said city Veterans Services Director Michael Ingham.
Frost, 46, recently visited the mayor to talk about the flag and how much it would mean to him and those he served with if the city would display it. Frost's parents, the late George and Joan Frost, were friends of the mayor, Frost said.
"Having the city take time to do this makes me feel like I'm being welcomed home," Frost said.
Although the flag escaped damage in violent incidents, Frost cannot say the same about himself. He was seriously injured on two occasions, each time sending him to the hospital for months. Frost served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.
"It was with me during the heat of summer and the snow of winter," Frost said of the flag. "I've been told that I should write a book about this flag, but I really don't have a clue as to where to begin."
Frost received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal and another with V for Valor, a Combat Infantry Badge and his Airborne Jump Wings.
A 1986 graduate of Haverhill High School, Frost joined the Army in his junior year. Following graduation, he took basic training and then attended Airborne Ranger school. He eventually served as a combat adviser in the rank of master sergeant. He said his first serious injury happened in Kuwait in 1991 during operation Desert Storm.
"I was on patrol when an IED went off and tore through my left knee," he said about an explosive device. "After surgery and months of therapy, I returned to active duty as I was still able to compete."
In 2007, he was serving as a combat adviser with a special forces group in the Khogyani district of Afghanistan when he sustained a more serious set of injuries.
A tattoo on the upper right side of his chest serves as a reminder of Aug. 27, 2007, when his unit came under fire. The tattoo displays rows of barbed wire interspersed with small crosses, each representing one of the five Afghan soldiers under his command who were killed.
"We were on our way to resupply a forward combat unit that was under fire when we were ambushed," Frost said. "An IED went off and I was thrown into the air and landed flat on my back on a boulder. I was laying there, unable to move, when I got shot in my left leg."
He also suffered a brain injury which he said affects his short-term memory.
Frost said he spent nine months in a hospital in Germany, most of it in traction to stabilize his injured spine.
When he was released from the hospital, he served as a training coordinator in Hawaii, until he was asked to retire in 2010 after 25 years of service.
"My dad served 28 years in the military and I wanted to beat him by serving 30, but I guess I wasn't meant to be," said Frost, who left the military with a 100 percent disability. "I've always said about my service that if not me, then who?"
His list of injuries is long, and includes a nearly blind right eye that was damaged by shrapnel, crushed vertebrae that required metal rods in his back, broken toes, a right knee that was replaced and a left knee that needs replacement. Frost said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Frost, who has four grown children, said despite his many injuries, he considers himself to be a "lucky guy."
"I came home," he said.