Hawaii battle flag will serve again in Iraq
|Photo gallery: Battle flag serves again|
|Video: Father lends battle flag to son's former commander|
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — A 40-year-old legacy in the form of a tattered yet proud American battle flag is being passed on.
During an emotional ceremony yesterday, Vietnam War veteran Allen Hoe entrusted the flag to leaders of the 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division. The squadron, like other Stryker troops, is leaving Schofield next month for a 15-month deployment in Iraq.
The 400-member squadron is headed by Col. Thomas Mackey, who was once commanding officer to 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe, Allen Hoe's son. The younger Hoe, 27, a 1995 Kamehameha Schools graduate, was killed by a sniper as he led a patrol in Mosul, Iraq, in January 2005. The flag was with him when he died.
Mackey asked Allen Hoe for permission to take the flag to Iraq as inspiration for his troops, "so they could be tied to that legacy of warriors that had come before us as well," Mackey said.
"That connection between my platoon leaders and sergeants carrying that flag on patrol is connected to his son and other warriors who have taken that flag to other war zones and it makes it a very unique and special flag."
A SOUVENIR FROM 1967
The flag was bought by a 21-year-old Allen Hoe in 1967 from a souvenir shop outside a U.S. military base in Chu Lai, Vietnam, and has "sort of taken on a life of its own," Allen Hoe told division leaders. Draped over the podium as Hoe told his story, it was clear the faded flag had seen better days.
Hoe said that as his company's medic, he had the biggest bag to carry and thus was entrusted with the flag.
On Mother's Day 1968, Hoe's unit sustained heavy casualties during a battle. Among those killed was Hoe's superior, Lt. Frederick Ransbottom.
Hoe's surviving Army mates asked him to hold onto the flag until Ransbottom's body was recovered.
"When Nainoa went to Iraq, he had shared the story of this flag with his young sergeants and they asked him to ask if I would send the flag to them in Mosul in honor of my lieutenant, who at that time was still missing in action and I thought that was an awesome tribute and so we sent the flag forward," Allan Hoe said. "And so Nainoa and his men carried the flag with them for a couple months. And then he was carrying the flag with him when he was killed in January 2005."
Nainoa Hoe's unit was also a part of the 25th Infantry Division.
Even before Nainoa Hoe took it with him to Iraq, the flag had begun its journeys. In 2004, the flag accompanied then-Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson, head of the 25th Infantry Division and commander of Joint Task Force 76, an allied command of more than 18,000 personnel representing 18 countries, to Afghanistan.
In 2006, the flag went to Iraq with Allen Hoe's old group, the 2nd Battalion, 196th Light Infantry Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division.
IT'LL FLY AGAIN JAN. 22
In summer 2006, after nearly four decades, the remains of Ransbottom and another U.S. soldier were identified in Vietnam. Allen Hoe and his flag traveled to Edmond, Okla., to attend the funeral this past January. At the funeral, Ransbottom's family told Hoe to continue holding onto the flag.
Adm. Timothy Keating, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, took the flag with him on several trips earlier this year, including to a conference of Pacific commanders at Iwo Jima, Hoe said. The flag was flown atop Mount Suribachi, he said.
"It has quite a story to tell," Hoe said.
Hoe asked Mackey's squadron to hoist the flag on its flagpole on Jan. 22, the third anniversary of Nainoa Hoe's death, "as a declaration to our enemies in Iraq that we're here, the legacy of this flag is still strong, we are not going to leave until this mission is completed. That is what my son would have wanted."
Yesterday's ceremony took place at the Nainoa K. Hoe Battle Command Training Center, a $33 million, 90,000-square-foot combat simulation training facility in the heart of Schofield dedicated in February 2007.
As he did when he attended the dedication ceremony for the training center, Allen Hoe yesterday wore his son's desert combat boots.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at email@example.com.