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Navy base flags that survived Hurricane Michael on display at Naval Surface Warfare Center

By ED OFFLEY | The News Herald | Published: October 10, 2019

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY – PANAMA CITY (Tribune News Service) — Three flags that survived the fierce winds of Hurricane Michael have become the centerpiece of a memorial display at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's headquarters.

When the Category 5 storm blew ashore one year ago on Thursday, the American Flag, a naval Meritorious Unit Commendation banner and the traditional POW-MIA remembrance flag were flying from the warfare center's flagpole, said Capt. Aaron Peters, the unit's commanding officer.

To mark the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael — in particular, the performance of the 1,500 military and civilian employees of the Naval Surface Warfare Center who have toiled to rebuild the facility since last Oct. 10 — the storm-tattered flags have been placed in a wall display at the headquarters building that also includes photographs and satellite images of the storm and its aftermath. The frayed and torn edges and spots of black mold have been preserved as a testament to the fury of the storm and the resilience of the people who endured it, Peters said.

"You really have to admire the people here," Peters said. "People are the backbone of the Navy."

Peters and Edwin A. Stewart, the center's technical director, will conduct a "PCD Live" address via the internal computer network Thursday at 2 p.m., the precise moment Hurricane Michael struck Bay County. "This gives me the ability to talk with all 1,500 military and civilian employees in one shot," he noted.

Peters and Stewart want to recognize the extraordinary effort that all employees have made to bring the warfare center back to its operational capability while providing aid, not just to their 2,000 family members, but neighboring residents as well.

He mentioned in particular the all-volunteer "North Lagoon Navy," comprised of volunteers from the naval workforce, who in the storm's aftermath helped residents nearby repair their homes and salvage belongings from residences that were beyond reconstruction.

The two leaders will also provide an update on the ongoing construction and building rehabilitation effort. Damage to the warfare center's 88 buildings, laboratories and other structures has been estimated at $110 million, with another $70 million to other tenant units on the base. Thus far, the parent Naval Sea Systems Command has furnished $25 million for storm recovery and the center has requested another $29 million in the new 2020 fiscal year.

"Even though there is a lot of work to do still, we have made a lot of progress," Peters said.

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©2019 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)
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