Stacia Bissell shared the story of the two flags she sponsored last year.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Stacia Bissell's parents always made a family camping trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
Some 16 years ago, a neighbor, Dan Doyle, asked her father where they went every year. It didn't take long before both families combined their camping trips and the tradition continued. When Bissell's daughter Jackie was 15 years old, she met Doyle's nephew Erik Twombly on the family trip and fell in love.
In 2016, the two were married in Pittsfield.
"Before their first anniversary occurred last year in September of 2017, he was deployed to Iraq," Bissell said.
In November, Bissell sponsored flags at Park Square in honor of Twombly and her own son Dylan. For five years the Kiwanis Club of Pittsfield has been filling Park Square with flags in the month of November. Each flag is sponsored by area residents in honor of veterans and each flag bears the name of that person. The money raised from the sponsorships goes to college scholarships for children and grandchildren of veterans.
When the flags came down at the end of November last year, Bissell asked if she could take the two she sponsored and send them to Twombly in Iraq.
"This spring Erik safety returned to Fort Campbell to resume he duties and he took the time this spring to send the flags back to Pittsfield," Bissell said.
When he returned, he mailed the flags back to Pittsfield to once again be part of the impressive display of flags in the city's downtown. He attached a note:
"I am Capt. Eric Twombly, an Apache helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army. Last year I was deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division to help fight ISIS and liberate Iraq. While there my mother-in-law sent me two U.S. flags. The flags traveled all the way to Iraq where I first met them at CampTaji, a small base just north of downtown Baghdad.
When I received the flags I immediately put them in a small backpack that I had with me on every flight I flew. I also took this backpack with me when I traveled all over Northern Iraq visiting my soldiers at the various bases at which they served.
I am proud to share that during my employment our unit helped liberate over 30 Iraqi cities from ISIS but I am even more proud that I had these flags by my side every step of the way. It gives me great joy to know that these flags that had been on the front lines in the fight against ISIS will now fly over the city of Pittsfield once again. I want to thank the organization for letting Stacia send them to me.
I wish you all the best. God bless America."
The Kiwanis Club held an opening ceremony of the Park of Honor project on Saturday, though it was nearly canceled for the second time. The weather had forced a cancellation of the event's first scheduled day last Saturday and it was rescheduled for this Saturday.
The crowd wasn't as big as in years past because of the weather.
"I'm really glad we decided to go ahead with this ceremony because we have something very special this year. We beautiful flags each one represents someone very near and dear to our hearts, who kept us safe and free. But we also have a flag that has been flying a lot of missions in Iraq," Cheryl Tripp-Cleveland of the Kiwanis Club said.
Tripp-Cleveland and her fellow Kiwanis Club members were at Park Square Saturday morning placing the names of the veterans on each flag. But around 10 a.m., a downpour began and the wind was gusting hard. It had all the makings of a cancellation.
But at the scheduled time of 1 in the afternoon, people were showing up in Park Square. Tripp-Cleveland was still uncertain about the event. In previous years there were an array of speakers and performances in front of a park full of people.
The group decided to go forward. There were no microphones and maybe only two dozen people. Bissell took to a small stage and the crowd moved in close together to hear the story described above. There was a short invocation from Ralph Howe, the singing of the national anthem and Amazing Grace, and a rifle salute.
Tripp-Cleveland apologized that the ceremony may not have been as big as in years past and she apologized that all of the names weren't attached yet. But those who were there didn't have any complaints because the small, intimate, ceremony provided an extra special feel to the event.
And less than an hour after it concluded, the sun came out.
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