By Spc. Cassandra Groce, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
HAWIJA, Iraq – In 1814, during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key penned the poem that would be adopted as our country’s national anthem in 1931.
From the deck of a U.S. truce ship, Key watched as Fort McHenry was bombarded all night by attacking British troops.
Almost 200 years later, Soldiers at Forward Operating Base McHenry withstand daily bombardments from Anti-Iraqi Forces. The irony was not lost on Command Sgt. Maj. David Allard of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Allard contacted the personnel at Fort McHenry, Maryland via email.
“I was doing a little research on Fort McHenry, and thought it would be a great opportunity to share a little history from over here with you in the United States,” wrote Allard. “As Francis Scott Key witnessed the attacks on Fort McHenry, we have also witnessed first hand the rocketing and mortaring of our base.”
The frequent correspondence with Chief Ranger Vincent Vaise, eventually led to two 15-star, 15-stripe flags (replicas of the “Star-Spangled Banner” that Key wrote about) being shipped to FOB McHenry.
The two flags were flown over the base in Iraq on Memorial Day.
One of the flags is en route back to Fort McHenry in Maryland, where it will be enshrined at the fort’s visitor center.
“Truly, there is an important link between both McHenry’s, and the namesake shows how the legacy of courage and patriotism spans the 192 years from 1814 to 2006,” wrote Vaise.
Allard hopes the ceremony at their FOB was a morale booster for Soldiers.
“A lot of people don’t know why their FOBs are named what they are,” explained Allard. “They’re after fallen Soldiers or battles in the past, like with McHenry.”
The FOBs flag will remain on display in Iraq as a reminder for the Soldiers stationed here.
“We always look back to our heritage and our traditions, and I think that history has a tendency of repeating itself,” said Allard. “At Fort McHenry they were protecting their country and themselves, just like FOB McHenry is here.”