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Marines raise Trade Center memorial flag over Kandahar airport
Associated Press WriterKANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. Marines on Monday raised a giant flag scrawled with the names of New York City policemen killed in the Sept. 11 attacks and other terror victims over their base Tuesday at Kandahar airport.
The flag, which had flown near the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks, was given to the Marines by the New York City Police Department, with the wish that it be flown over Afghanistan, according to Col. Andrew W. Frick of Task Force 58.
After a single blast on a police whistle, a four-man color guard raised the flag on a makeshift pole in the glass-scattered courtyard of the main terminal building at the airport outside the southern city of Kandahar. About 30 Marines and sailors, along representatives of coalition forces, stood at attention.
Handwritten in the white stars on the flag's blue field were the names of 23 New York police officers who died in the World Trade Center attack, and the names of 17 sailors killed in an October, 2000 suicide bombing against the Navy ship U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.
Both attacks have been blamed on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terror network, the main targets in the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.
The flag's red and white stripes were scrawled with dozens of messages, some from the families of victims and others from well wishers.
"God bless the NYPD, FDNY, US armed forces. Good luck and make us proud," said one message scrawled by P.O. Morietti, of the New York's 43rd police precinct.
"In memory of James Rickes, NYPD + NYFD. Never punked out," said another message.
Another, signed by Mark Poster, said "God bless and protect you while you avenge our fallen brothers. We didn't ask for this fight, but we will finish it now."
Col. Frick said the flag had been given to a Marine in New York and flown to the U.S.S. Bataan, a Navy warship in the northern Arabian Sea. From there it followed troops from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who seized this abandoned international airport on Friday.
"For our purposes, it is symbolic," said Frick about the flag-raising. He said the flag will later be returned to the New York City police.
Frick said the Marines were close, but not quite finished, with the job Americans wanted them to do in Afghanistan in the war against terrorism.
"Our job is not done until we track down the leadership (of the Taliban and terror organizations)," he said.