CAMP RAMADI, Iraq, June 7, 2004 — Marine Master Sgt. Christobal
Cowan and his American flag have been traveling the world since 1989.
Cowan, operations chief for 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine
received the 8-foot-by-5-foot flag during his tour as a Marine security
guard at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile.
"It was the first night I stood duty there," said Cowan,
of Tucson, Ariz. "The embassy got bombed by some local terrorists."
bombing took place at around 1 a.m., so no one except Cowan and a
Chilean security guard were near the explosion. The Chilean suffered
minor facial wounds and recovered soon after.
the flags flying over the embassy there were replaced with clean flags
once a month. After the bombing, the Marines began a new tradition.
"Since I was on duty the night of that bombing, they
decided to give it to me instead of burning it," he explained.
His next duty station was at the U.S. Embassy in Lima,
Peru, where his flag also flew.
the next 15 years, that same flag went to every country in which Cowan
set foot. It went with him to Joint Task Force 6 at the Texas-Mexico
border and Somalia. Cowan took it with him on several deployments to
Okinawa, Japan; South America; Kosovo; and, most recently, to Iraq.
Cowan said he doesn't bring the flag for his own use.
I was with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit last year, I got to fly
my flag on the USS Nassau on Christmas Day for about an hour," he said.
"That was really great."
When the 24th MEU stopped in Kosovo for about a month,
his flag to the camp there because the unit had no other flag to fly.
he is here until September. His flag is hung inside the battalion's
command operations center because orders restrict him from displaying
"I try very hard to follow proper
flag etiquette. When I put it away, I fold it properly," the father of
three boys said. "Some sticklers might cringe when they see it
displayed, but I have to work with what I can. I display it with the
utmost respect for the flag and what it stands for."
Cowan said some of the Marines ask him about the flag
from time to time because most don't realize there is a history behind
never understood the story about the flag," said Cpl. Aric R. Van
Hoosear, battalion intelligence chief. "Knowing that Master Sergeant
Cowan has taken the flag from deployment to deployment makes it more
The reason Cowan exhibits flag to
the entire battalion is to instill a sense of pride for America and
what the country represents.
"Liberty, freedom and democracy — that's what the flag represents
to me," Cowan added.