OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
The beaches of Normandy, the ports at Pearl Harbor, atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, and Ground Zero in New York City; all of these places have one thing in common: The American Flag. The American Flag has symbolized victory, defeat, liberation and hope throughout our nation’s history. For many Americans, the flag represents allegiance, freedom, and a proud heritage. This symbol has flown over France, Japan, Italy, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and more, not as a sign of hostility but as a promise to support and defend those who need us most.
In an attempt to link the present with the past, one flag in particular, named Old Glory, has traveled all over the world. In an effort to remind those near and far, Old Glory proudly represents those who have courageously defended our nation and its allies.
“The Old Glory Tour has been a very positive experience for me,” said Dave Pawlewicz, President of Century Link America, a Patriotic non-profit organization. “I am an Air Force veteran who served during the mid-1960’s. I reached a point in the late 1990s where I wanted to do something meaningful and patriotic.”
“My son practiced his cross country at Valley Forge National Park. While waiting for him, I would sit and look at the National Memorial Arch dedicated to General Washington and his Continental Soldiers who endured a harsh winter at Valley Forge. Looking through the Arch, I could see the American Flag waiving proudly. To me it was a beautiful site. The idea for The Old Glory Tour flowed from all of the above,” said Pawlewicz
He started the flag tour in 1999, when Old Glory was raised at Valley Forge, marking the beginning of the Old Glory Travels America’s Freedom Tour hosted by Century Link America.
“The mission of the Old Glory Tour is, in part, to remember and commemorate important events of our history, to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans and the fallen who helped shape them, to salute members of the armed forces, to recognize the firefighters, police and EMT’s who protect our freedom domestically, to inspire and educate our youth and to celebrate the freedoms and spirit of America our flag symbolizes,” said Pawlewicz.
As tensions grow between North and South Korea, we are reminded of the Korean War not so long ago. June 25th of 1950 began a war that has still seen no conclusion. The American Flag flew for the south during the three year conflict. It flew against communism, and held those we lost in its bold stripes and stars.
In January of 2005, 30 active-duty service members took the Oath of Allegiance in Seoul and became U.S. citizens during a special overseas military naturalization ceremony. During that ceremony, Old Glory was unfurled and presented as she welcomed our newest citizens.
Now, 12 years later, Old Glory made a trip to Osan Air Base to fly in honor of those who fought, those who died, and those who are ready to do the same to uphold freedom in South Korea.
“It’s an important visit,” said Pawlewicz. “Here in the states, Korea is a daily topic in the papers and on TV - front and center. Most know that we have U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, but I don’t think the majority of citizens know or can appreciate what our troops do on a daily basis to protect our freedoms here at home and abroad.”
Old Glory was flown in a U-2 Dragon Lady at an altitude of 60,000 feet above the earth’s surface and took a ride in an F-16 Flying Falcon with the commander of the 51st Fighter Wing, Col. Williams Betts. She also made one of the most dangerous flights an American can make. She flew at the 38th Parallel, the DMZ, in an A-10 Thunderbolt II.
“It was a great reminder of why we are here,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Kantack, 51st Public Affairs broadcasting craftsman. “While I flew with Col. Betts and Old Glory, it really made me think of those who came before us and the legacy we might leave for those who will come after us.”
After sharing its history and capturing new memories, Old Glory will return to Washington D.C. to be one of many heroes during a Veteran’s Day Ceremony. Korean War Veterans, holding Old Glory, will lead the procession of veterans groups through the Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
“It will be a special experience for them knowing that Old Glory has just returned from being with our troops in South Korea,” said Pawlewicz. “Hopefully, it will also be a special connection for all who participated with Old Glory at the 51st.”