06 January 2012

'Hero's Highway' flag presented to 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base

SAN ANTONIO - The 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base received an American flag Thursday that offered hope to thousands of soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines who were wounded in Iraq.

The flag is one of four displayed in Hero's Highway, a tent that wounded troops entered as they were brought into the Air Force Theatre Hospital at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Over seven years, 35,000 patients were treated at the hospital in Balad.

More than 9,000 of those wounded warriors passed under the flag which was presented to the 59th Medical Wing.

Retired Col. Charles Hardin, who was the commander at the hospital from January 2005 to May 2005, said the glimpse at the flag offered hope.

"You could see the relief on their faces," he said. "That flag meant all the world to them at that moment."

It was a sign that they were in American territory -- and would be taken care of.

This 2007 Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr. shows the US flag canopy of the "Hero's Highway" at Balad Air Base, Iraq, through which hundreds of wounded Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Iraqi personnel passed each month.

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