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380AEW Article

48-star flag flies in tribute to D-Day

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates – To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, one maintainer and American patriot had his 48-star U.S. flag flown on the very aircraft he maintains.

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Peterson, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance F-35A Lightning II crew chief, handed the family heirloom to a 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot en route to perform a patrol mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Throughout World War II, which coincidently is when the 4th EFS lineage began as the 4th Pursuit Squadron, the flag belonged to his grandfather, a school teacher and Hoover Dam tour guide.

“I’ve been thinking, especially with it being D-Day and being with the 4th, a squadron that activated for WWII,” said Peterson. “Just being a part of that is really cool - kind of humbling in a way. I never thought joining the Air Force I would be working on the F-35 and the rich history of our country.”

The F-35 is a fifth-generation fighter that brings the most cutting-edge technology to the battlefield. Long before any jet aircraft of this caliber was around, the old 48-star flag represents the time in history before Alaska and Hawaii were ratified as U.S. states.

Peterson’s dad still remembers displaying the flag outside his Las Vegas home as a little boy. His father later volunteered into the Army as the Vietnam War kicked off, served 20 years and retired. When his dad was cleaning out his grandfather’s house, after he passed, his father came across the long forgotten flag. His dad then gave it to Peterson.

“At the time I didn’t really think much of it when my dad gave it to me,” said Peterson. “I knew it had some age, but I didn’t know of the significance at that point.”

The flag now has some wear and tear on it, but few flags have visited the places it has or have a story quite like it.

Peterson has lost count of how many aircraft the flag has flown on. Between four deployments and overseas assignments, it has flown out of the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Spain, Germany, Korea and Hawaii. The flag has flown on many state-side missions as well to include one particularly sentimental flight above the Hoover Dam, which his grandfather showcased many times during the summer tour season.

The 48 stars sit in perfect rows and columns to represent all the states of 1912 to 1959. The iconic moment captured of six Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, and later materialized into the Marine Corps War Memorial, features the same version.

The flag will return to base having gained another accolade, not only was it flown during the squadron’s first Middle East deployment, but it honors the service members who risked their lives during WWII, especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on June 6, 1944.