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NEWS | Feb. 16, 2011

Pennsylvania Guardmembers have a hand in National 9/11 Flag

By Army Sgt. Doug Roles Pennsylvania National Guard

MILFORD, Pa. - An Army National Guardmember seriously injured in a 2008 deployment to Afghanistan, joined nearly 100 fellow Pennsylvanians in placing a stitch in the National 9/11 Flag Saturday, Feb, 12.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. George Holmes, a Pennsylvania Army National Guardmember, participated as one of 13 specially nominated “local heroes” in the The National 9/11 Flag Tour.

The latest sewing ceremony was held at a local high school here and special guests to the tour and events have included service members, teachers and emergency responders, with local color guards also taking part in the ceremonies.

Holmes has served in the Guard for 21 years, and was seriously injured in a mortar/rocket attack June 18, 2008 in Afghanistan while serving with the 103rd Armor Regiment.

He is one of hundreds of Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers wounded since 9/11.

“I think it’s an honor to come here and be a part of the event and represent the Guard,” Holmes said.

The 30-feet-long flag on display once hung from scaffolding in the World Trade Center complex, and was badly damaged in the collapse of the towers.

As recovery efforts progressed, it was taken down from the scaffolding and Charlie Vitchers, a ground zero construction superintendent, took it to his home.

While volunteering with the New York Says Thank You Foundation years later, Vitchers and other volunteers developed the idea to reconstruct the damaged banner.

The goal of the tour is to give Americans in all 50 states a chance to add a stitch to the repair effort, and Pennsylvania contributed a flag flown over the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville and threads from the historic Lincoln’s Flag kept in Milford, which hung in Ford’s Theatre when President Lincoln was assassinated.

Visitors placing a stitch in the Pennsylvania patch of the flag Saturday had their photos taken in front of the flag and signed a record book.

“Our goal is to make the flag whole again,” said Jeff Parness, tour founder and chairman.

Having worked in Manhattan at one point, Holmes said he feels especially connected to the flag project, and said he appreciated the number of people who came out to the event.

“It’s good to see the public support the military and the emergency services personnel,” Holmes said.

For more information on the flag tour, go to www.National911Flag.org