Flags of the Free

Return to Table of Contents

Trio of War Flags Dedicated at Pease

By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, November 9, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
WAR AND REMEMBRANCE -- Jerry McConnell (USMC-Ret.) speaks from behind the podium during the flag dedication ceremony at Pease International Tradeport. (next page:) Hampton resident McConnell stands under the flag which first flew over Guadalcanal during World War II
[Atlantic News Photos by Fred Rice]

PORTSMOUTH -- Members of the Pease Greeters and the Marine Corps League, Seacoast Detachment were joined by a large contingent of other patriotic volunteers and Veterans in honoring a trio of American flags now proudly on display in the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease.

The well-attended dedication ceremony was conducted on the evening of Thursday, November 1. Marine Corps League members, wearing their signature red blazers and caps, stood respectfully at attention during the proceedings.

Unveiled at the event was a 48-star Old Glory from World War II, a patriotic banner which first flew over Guadalcanal (an island northeast of Australia) in the South Pacific in 1942.

The flag, saved from Japanese forces by a brave Marine with ties to the Seacoast, is on loan to Pease courtesy of his family. Encased in Plexiglas for safekeeping, the flag now hangs suspended overhead in the terminal.

A second flag was one that had flown over a gunship that helped to "take out" al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2006. It had been presented as a "thank you" by a Marine who had been welcomed by Pease Greeters during a stop-over.

The third flag, presented by Navy Captain Adonis Arvanitakis as a "thank you" gift to the Pease Greeters, had previously flown over Kabul and Baghdad, where it had been raised aloft by American troops.

These two flags, flown during the current Global War on Terror, are accompanied by ceremonial plaques and mounted on the terminal walls. They are a welcome addition to the dozens of troop photographs, patches and other mementos that line the Heroes' Walk corridor at the terminal.

Sgt. Jerry McConnell in 1946,
four days after Guadalcanal.
[Photo courtesy www.seacoastmarines.com]

Hampton resident, Jerry McConnell (USMC-Ret.) was one of those US Marines who witnessed the older American flag as it flew over Guadalcanal.

"It had been 65 years since I last looked at that flag," recalls McConnell, "when I was just 18 years old and only a few months after quitting high school in my senior year to join the Marines."

McConnell was asked to speak during the dedication of the flag, and standing behind the podium he was understandably moved by the honor and the circumstances.

"It was a very emotional time for me," says McConnell, "and standing there under that flag brought back a whole lot of memories of that place."

The flag belongs to the family of the late Master Sergeant, George Doore of Kittery, Maine. As a young corporal with the United States Marine Corps during WWII, Doore fought on Guadalcanal. Doore, with his personal safety at risk, saved the flag from being seized by the enemy during a counterattack.

McConnell, who says he knew of no other Marines in attendance at the ceremony who had been on Guadalcanal during WWII, feels that he had "brought a bit of reality to the ceremony for those who were there."

He adds that many of the people in attendance "came up to me after I spoke and shook my hand thanking me for my service. It was a very humbling experience."

According to Commandant Ed Johnson of the Marine Corps League, Seacoast Detachment, "All three flags mean so much to us. They were given to us by the bravest of the brave and we are so honored."

Johnson heads up the Pease Greeters organization and has helped to welcome the more than 100 flights bearing US troops, either being deployed overseas or coming home to the United States.

"The fact we're now able to put them on display and share them, instead of the flags being put away and forgotten, takes on even greater meaning with Veterans' Day just around the corner," says Johnson. "We promise to keep them safe and to always remember the sacrifices they represent."

McConnell says that the Heroes' Walk along one of the terminal's corridors was an especially wonderful sight for him to see.

"All of the photos and other mementoes donated by our returning heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan makes me feel proud to have also served my country," he says. And now, with this latest trio of American flags now on display, there are three more reasons for pure patriotic pride.

The Pease Greeters began back in the spring of 2005, when the Marine Corps League met the first flight bearing American troops from overseas. The troops are met with enthusiastic applause, hugs and high-fives, refreshments, a chance to freshen up and phone home, and are honorably saluted for their service. To find out more about the organization and how to become a part of it, visit www.peasegreeters.org.

Jerry McConnell and Legion Post 35 Chaplain John Holman
at the Marston School Veterans Day Assembly on November 9, 2007.

[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
Return to Table of Contents