USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Aboard aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), a sense of pride and dedication is an easily recognizable attribute of those who serve on the Navy's oldest active warship.
However, a little-known program is proof the enduring legend of Enterprise reaches many not actively serving aboard. This program serves as evidence that the Big E's legacy is known far and wide among military personnel and civilians alike.
The program involves the flying of flags sent to the ship by individuals. After being flown, the flags are sent back to the requestors with certificates stating when and for whom they were flown.
The ceremonial flag initiative, coordinated by Enterprise's Navigation department, has been extremely successful.
Since April, Enterprise Sailors have accommodated more than 200 requests for flags to be flown. That is more than 50 requests each month, and the requests come from everywhere.
"We have individuals who have either been stationed on the ship before, or who are on the ship currently, or even civilians who have just heard about the program, who send flags to us," said Quartermaster 1st Class Craig Bowman, native of Albuquerque, N.M., and departmental leading petty officer. "We raise it for them, let it fly for a little bit and then we'll bring it down and send it back to them with a certificate signed by Cmdr. Donald E Kennedy, Enterprise's navigator. Upon special request it can also be signed by Capt. William C. Hamilton, Jr. (Enterprise's commanding officer)."
The program has spread mostly through word of mouth and e-mails sent from department heads aboard Enterprise.
The process for having a flag flown is exceptionally simple considering the impact it has on the recipients of the flags.
"Anyone can have flags flown by contacting me and requesting to have one flown. The request should include a name, the date you may want it flown and anything specific to your request," said Quartermaster Seaman Apprentice Tiffany Odom, native of Robertsdale, Al., and ceremonial flag coordinator. "If it's for a retirement then you need to include how many years you've been in and what rank you are retiring at."
"I get the mail and I log it in my book to make sure everyone is accounted for," said Odom. "From there, depending on the particular request, I'll fly it on a specific date. Then I generate the flag certifications."
Those interested in having a flag flown must provide their own due to the increasing number of requests.
Some people, wishing to be a part of history, just want a flag flown on Enterprise because of the legendary status of the carrier. Others have a more personal connection to the ship and want to commemorate that in a tangible symbol.
"We had a Vietnam veteran who had a flag flown on the ship because Enterprise provided air support for him during the war," said Bowman.
Odom has also received some memorable requests including, just recently, a request from a couple who wanted a flag to commemorate their wedding anniversary.
Flying these flags over the Enterprise is more than a job. Odom sees this as an opportunity to fill other people's lives with the deep connection she herself feels to the flag and what it represents in her own life.
"It overwhelms me," said Odom. "I think about my grandfather who passed away about five years ago. He has his flag in a shadow box. I wish I would have had the opportunity to fly it on a ship like this. Every time I fly a flag it reminds me of my grandfather and his shadow box."
"I'm always free for someone who wants to fly a flag," said Odom. "Any occasion, any date, I'll do it."
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