American Flag spends years in Iraq before returning to United States

Staff Sgt. Al Saedi’s flag presented to the 11th ACR. (U.S. Army photo by PFC Gower Liu, 11ACR Public Affairs)

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — On Jan. 13, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment had the privilege of receiving guest speaker, Staff Sgt. Ahmed Al Saedi, currently serving with the Army Reserve unit 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

Al Saedi was an Iraqi native assisting the 1st Armored Division and the 11th ACR during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a civilian interpreter.

While speaking at the 1/11 motor pool, he described his time there, including the miraculous survival of one of his most treasured belongings— an American flag bestowed to him by a deceased U.S. Soldier.

During this time serving as an interpreter, Al Saedi was first sent to work with the 1st Armored Division. Through his efforts, he slowly developed a close relationship born of mutual respect with the scouts and became one of them. On the night of April 3, 2004, his friend Sgt. Lawson had the idea to present Al Saedi with an American flag in appreciation for his services and as a token of friendship.

Staff Sgt. Al Saedi engaging with Blackhorse Troopers. (U.S. Army photo by PFC Gower Liu, 11ACR Public Affairs)

The next day, Lawson and his team were sent on a mission. Tragically during the mission, Sgt. Lawson was killed in action. That night, everyone but Larson signed the flag and gave it to Al Saedi. He treasured it and kept it in a gym bag to preserve the colors. When the 1st Armored Division left Iraq, he was transferred to the 11th ACR. On route to his new base, his driver was notified that there was an Iraqi checkpoint on the route. Al Saedi was certain that if they saw the flag, they would kill him and display his head in front of the flag. With few options available to him, he buried the gym bag containing the flag off the road and committed the location to memory.

When the 11th ACR left Iraq, Al Saedi also came to the United States. In 2016, he invited his family to visit. When they asked him what he would want, he seized the chance and told his dad where his flag was buried and asked him to dig it up. Al Saedi’s flag stayed buried in Iraqi soil for 11 years before making its way back to the United States. Its colors are vibrant, its signatures are clear and its creases are a reminder of the years spent in foreign territory.