MTANG members support landmark flag and flagpole
By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson, 120th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
/ Published June 21, 2013
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Fourteen Montana Air National Guard officers and enlisted personnel supported the community Flag Day celebration held at Broadwater Overlook Park in Great Falls, Mont., on June 14. During the ceremony, 120th Fighter Wing unit members served as the Honor Guard and also helped raise the 30-foot-by-50-foot flag on the 120-foot flagpole for assembled community residents.
120th FW Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John Allen offered the invocation and 120th FW Director of Equal Opportunity, Maj. Rick Anderson, served as the master of ceremonies during the annual event.
The community residents appreciated the ceremony and show of patriotism, but much of the success of the program can be attributed to the eight volunteer Guardsmen who maintain the flag throughout the year.
The MTANG's involvement with the landmark flag and flagpole dates back to nearly 30 years ago when Guard personnel joined with members of the Great Falls Association of Realtors to form a flag committee. The original committee has since changed hands, but members from MTANG continue to assist the local Realtor group to care for the symbol of our country.
The Guardsmen volunteer numerous hours of their personal time to raise and lower the flag during the year for maintenance and special occasions. They monitor weather reports to ensure that the flag is removed before a storm can damage the giant banner.
120th FW Weapons Loader, Master Sgt. Michael Halko, has cared for the flag for more than 18 months and saw this as an opportunity to serve the community where he lives.
"We're from this area and it shows our pride in our city," said Halko. "It's a symbol of our freedom. We wear the uniform, we defend the flag and the people that fought for the flag before us."
As master of ceremonies, Anderson controlled the flow of the program and directed each element of the ceremony. He enjoyed the patriotic spirit and messages delivered to the audience by the guest speakers he introduced.
"Flag Day means we remember those who died for this country and we also remember those who are still serving this country," Anderson said. "We should never take freedom for granted and should never take the opportunities we have here in this country for granted."
The volunteers will fly three to five flags each year on the flag pole at Overlook Park and each flag may see two to three repairs done to it before it is retired from service and destroyed. All flags are purchased using donated funds raised in the local community.
The Guardsmen get great satisfaction knowing that their volunteer effort is appreciated by the residents of Great Falls.