FORT MCCOY, Wisconsin (NEWS RELEASE) - An American flag that once flew over a Wisconsin Army National Guard gun truck on the battlefields of Iraq is now displayed proudly at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy at Fort McCoy, Wis.
Staff Sergeant Bruce Wozniak, an 18-year veteran of the Wisconsin State Patrol and a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, deployed to Iraq in 2008 as a member of the 105th Cavalry Squadron. He presented the flag to the academy in an April 3 ceremony at Fort McCoy.
It is often customary for units to fly the flag above combat outposts or forward operating bases in honor of a civilian or organization back home. Units then send the flags home and present them to the individual or organization for display and remembrance.
When Wozniak - a Stanley, Wis., native - deployed to Iraq in 2008, he planned to fly Old Glory in honor of his employer, the Wisconsin State Patrol, but rather than a flag that flew above a base, he presented one that flew in combat.
His unit often flew American flags on their vehicles as they patrolled Iraq's dusty roads during their deployment, so he chose to present one of those flags as a symbol of his appreciation for his employer.
The State Patrol Academy finally received that token of appreciation when Wozniak presented the folded flag in a shadow box along with a certificate and photos from the deployment.
Wozniak credited the State Patrol with making him a leader and for supporting his military service as an employer through multiple deployments and absences.
"They made me a better instructor than what I was in the Army, so I just wanted to give them a little recognition," he said after presenting the flag. "They have a flag here that was flown over the capitol in Washington D.C. I saw that when I was here, and I remembered that over there, so I had one done for them."
"It was a great honor to do it, because they've done so much for me here that I was trying to return the favor a little bit and show them what they meant to me," he added. "They really respect the military greatly. They always have, so I'm just trying to return the honor that they've given to the Guard. They've always been very supportive of everything we do."
Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Stephen Fitzgerald called receiving the flag "an honor," as he highlighted the strong relationship his agency has with the Wisconsin National Guard.
"Over the years when we've had disasters where we've really had some serious things that have happened in our state, the National Guard has always been there to supplement our people," Fitzgerald said.
Displaying the flag at the academy will serve as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices borne by both military and law enforcement, he said.
"I know the sacrifices the military people make every day," the superintendent said. "I know the sacrifice that law enforcement officers make every day, so to be honored by someone of that caliber is always an emotional event for me personally. I'm always proud to be part of any of these ceremonies, because it just pays tribute to the people that deserve it."
The shadow box will be on display in the foyer of the state patrol academy.
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