Guardsman gives battalion flag to city
By James D.Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent May 17, 2013 2:52PM
John Tracey (left) recently presented a National Guard Company B 113th Engineer Battalion flag to the city of Valparaiso. Mayor Jon Costas accepted the flag, which accompanied the battalion to Iraq in 2005. | Photo provided
Updated: June 20, 2013 6:30AM
After a trip to Iraq in 2005 and six years being missing, a flag representing 1st Sgt. John Tracey’s service in the city’s National Guard contingent is now part of City Hall.
Tracey presented the city with the flag for National Guard Company B 113th Engineer Battalion on April 8. The flag’s white castle on a red field matches a pennant that the battalion gave to the city earlier.
“I wanted to give it to the city because they supported the National Guard and the local citizens who participated,” including those in Valparaiso’s employ, Tracey said recently. “They’ve always made the soldiers feel really good.”
He remained with Valparaiso’s guard since transferring to it about 1978, although his job took him as far as Champaign, Ill., and Middlebury, Ind.
“I liked this engineering battalion so well, I was willing to travel here to perform my drills,” Tracey said.
The flag became his during his May 2003 retirement ceremony, when company Commander Capt. John Pitt lowered it and presented it to him to recognize his 30 years in the United States military, 22 of it in the National Guard.
But when the Bravo Company went to Mosul, Iraq, in 2005, he loaned them his flag for the conflict.
No one could find it when they returned, and Tracey assumed someone took it as a souvenir.
It wasn’t until January 2013 that Capt. Jose Cuadra, who was commander of the 113th in 2005, discovered it in a bag in his closet.
Because Tracey promised Pitt he’d fly the flag from his own pole, he did for 15 minutes after he got it back.
However, he didn’t want it to become more weathered and tattered.
“I thought having the flag framed and hanging in City Hall, more people could appreciate it and what was done by soldiers.”
During the presentation of the flag to the city, Tracey said, “old soldiers don’t die until they are forgotten, and it’s my hope that we will remember our soldiers.”
Mayor Jon Costas agreed.
“This flag stands as a symbol of the men and women who make sacrifices for our freedoms,” Costas said. “This will stand as a symbol lest we ever forget — and we won’t.”