31st MEU, Essex receive flags from WTC
October 3, 2003
WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, Okinawa — Two New York City Port Authority police officers presented American and World Trade Center flags to Marines and sailors during a ceremony Wednesday aboard the USS Essex.
The flags, flown at the World Trade Center site, were given to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Essex Amphibious Ready Group.
Police officers John Zultanky and Barry Pikaard traveled to Okinawa to donate the flags.
“We want to show that the American people won’t be humbled or buckled by terrorist attacks,” said Zultanky. “We’re going to do what we need to do to protect ourselves.”
Marine Staff Sgt. David Karnes helped organize the presentation. A reservist with 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, he’s on Okinawa for six months as part of the Unit Deployment Program. Karnes said he realized he could help organize the donation while he was on leave before his unit deployed.
Karnes said when he visited some Port Authority police officers, several photos on their memorial wall caught his eye.
“They had a news article and photos on their wall that showed flags being given to the 24th MEU,” he said. “They said they wanted to do the same in the Pacific, and since we were headed to Okinawa, I figured I could help out.”
During the ceremony, Capt. Richard Landolt, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, said the flags reminded him of the famous photo of firefighters at the fallen towers.
“I immediately thought of that famous picture … I think you all know the one,” he said. “The one that invokes the fighting spirit of Iwo Jima, the one of the three firemen in New York City, who lifted the colors from the rubble and then flew that flag. This Iwo Jima-like moment was immortalized on the front page of many newspapers with the headline, ‘Proof through the night that our flag was still there.’”
The 31st MEU’s commanding officer, Col. Roy Arnold, said the flags will remind his young Marines of their connection with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Many of them have joined since that day “and have a direct connection to the events,” Arnold said. “We’re honored to have these officers fly to the other side of the world and deliver these flags. We will carry them with pride.”
Having the flags, he said, “will help us focus a little more. We’ll take them ashore and fly them wherever we go to remind us why we’re out here.”