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Flag Flown in Iraq in Stars' Honor

Sunday, 04.5.2009 / 2:06 PM CT / Feature
By Erin Chenderlin
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Flag Flown in Iraq in Stars\' Honor
Video: Stars Flag Presentation

The Dallas Stars players were called into a team meeting on Friday where they were surprised and honored to receive a Stars flag that had been flown over in Iraq by the Air Force National Guard squadron from Garland, Texas.

The flag, flown over the Kirkuk Regional Air Base in Iraq by the 221st Combat Communications Squadron, was raised on July 22, 2008 and flown for the day before being taken down and signed by all the members of the squadron. Messages included good luck toward the team and gratitude for their unwavering support. 

“I can’t even imagine what this thing has been through,” Dallas captain Brenden Morrow said as he accepted the flag in the Stars’ dressing room before practice. “On behalf of our team and our families, I would like to thank you for everything you have done, keeping us safe and able to sleep at night. We have probably given you some restless nights cheering for us this year, but we will use this as motivation next year.”

The idea to fly the flag was that of Staff Sergeant Jonathan Mitchell. Each member of the squadron was given permission to fly a flag of their choice beneath the Stars and Stripes for a day of their choosing. It was something, Mitchell said, that could then be taken home as a keepsake. The staff sergeant chose July 22 because it’s his best friend, Michael “Wes” Westbrook’s birthday.

“He’s the one who turned me on to hockey,” he said. “I flew the flag on his birthday to honor him and to honor the Dallas Stars because they have military members at every game and they have military appreciation days and I just wanted to do a little thank you to them.”

“We try to support our troops,” said Brad Richards, who donates tickets to every game to military members and their families in his Task Force 91 section. “What they do for us is incredible and valuable and it’s pretty good motivation to know that they’re flying a flag in our honor over there, and in our support.”

The squadron presented the team with the flag, then were able to walk around the locker room, getting an insider’s view as they met the team and got autographs Many brought jerseys with them to have signed, including Mitchell. He brought a Modano jersey that was signed by No. 9 and was to be given to the friend he honored.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Mitchell said. “It’s not every day you get to do something like this. You get to meet the guys and shake their hands and say, ‘Thanks again for what you do, it’s really important to people.’”

As photos of the flag being flown passed around the room, players seemed in awe of the honor they had been given. The photo of the flag being saluted as it was taken down struck a chord with many of them, including goaltender Marty Turco.

“Seeing that flag flying over in Iraq, right below the American flag and having that be kind of symbolic for them … it’s a pretty neat feeling,” he said.

“It really means a lot to see them here,” said center Mike Ribeiro. “We get nervous to play hockey games … I can’t imagine how they feel to do their job every day. They’ve been over there fighting in Iraq and it’s nice to know that they’re there to protect us.”

The respect and appreciation flowed both ways as players thanked the members of the military for their service, and the squadron thanked the team for all they do on the ice and in their support of the troops. Some of the service men and women stayed after the ceremony to watch practice, and a few others even came back to the player’s lounge after practice and talked further with the team.

“You can never compare what they do for all of us and our freedom in this country to what we do on the ice with a stick and a puck,” Turco said. “We get glorified, but there’s no way to even compare the two. It was a good day for us and they seemed to have some fun, too.”




1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70


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