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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.”

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 58 36 18 4 160 134 76
2 DAL 55 35 15 5 178 147 75
3 STL 56 30 17 9 133 130 69
4 LAK 53 32 18 3 146 124 67
5 SJS 53 28 20 5 154 143 61
6 ANA 53 26 19 8 120 125 60
7 COL 57 28 25 4 153 158 60
8 NSH 54 25 21 8 139 144 58
9 MIN 54 23 21 10 133 134 56
10 VAN 54 22 20 12 125 144 56
11 ARI 53 24 23 6 139 163 54
12 CGY 53 25 25 3 143 156 53
13 WPG 54 24 27 3 139 157 51
14 EDM 56 22 29 5 138 168 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 55 28 34 16 62
T. Seguin 55 28 32 11 60
J. Klingberg 55 10 36 14 46
J. Spezza 52 18 22 5 40
P. Sharp 55 16 24 -2 40
A. Goligoski 55 4 20 16 24
C. Eakin 55 10 13 0 23
M. Janmark 55 10 10 14 20
J. Demers 48 7 12 16 19
V. Nichushkin 52 6 13 7 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 20 10 5 .908 2.52
K. Lehtonen 15 5 0 .912 2.79
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