Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2005 | People

Flag Bearers

By NA NA

Hawkeye banners symbolize the loyalty and sacrifice of Iowa soldiers.

In a brief leave from his military duty in Iraq, Iowa National Guardsman Devin Miller stopped by the alumni association offices this past October to make a special delivery.

He wanted to personally present a black-and-gold Hawkeye flag scrawled with heartfelt messages of gratitude and humor from Iowa soldiers serving overseas.

"Thanks for having our backs stateside,” wrote SPC Stemple.

"The support that you gave never went unnoticed,” said LCPL Henderson.

"Thanks, but please send us beer. They ran out three years ago,” scribbled SGT Win.

Part of an ambitious Iowa Club project to ship care packages to the more than 1,100 Iowa troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, several such flags were displayed at Hawkeye Rally Alley—a special area near Kinnick Stadium for pregame festivities—during Iowa’s home football contests against Michigan and Minnesota this past fall. Paradise Iowa Club president and project organizer Justin McBride, 96BS, of Fort Myers, Florida, says the gesture gives the soldiers much-deserved recognition for the sacrifices they make.

Rally Alley visitors browsed the signatures, which also included personality-revealing nicknames from the Guard’s 2168th Transportation Unit, such as Steve “The Tank” Visker; Eldon “Wildman” DeWild; Daphne Moss, a.k.a. “High Maintenance”; and Dan “Hollywood” Haynes.

In a letter to the UI Alumni Association and McBride, Brigadier General Jimmy Welch of the 224th Engineer Battalion—which includes Miller—says the soldiers feel fortunate to receive the generosity of patriotic organizations that care so much about their well-being. He writes: “The unwavering support and commitment you have shown to our soldiers is evident of your nurturing character and love of country.”

Nine Iowa Clubs—Fort Myers, Cedar Rapids, San Diego, Las Vegas, Houston, San Antonio, New York Metro, Miami, and Memphis—are in the process of sending care packages to troops. So far, the clubs have shipped more than 557 pounds of goods. UIAA staffers send Iowa flags on behalf of the clubs for soldiers to sign and return. Around the time the UIAA received Miller’s flag, three others arrived, while several more were on the way.

“The men and women of the Iowa National Guard volunteered to be taken away from their families, their homes, and their lives to serve our country,” McBride says. “The flags are both symbolic and purposeful. They are a reminder to all who see them that Iowans are serving our country in a combat zone where their lives are in danger every day.”