Post 911 flies flag for Airforce Academy

When Mike Simler, a former police officer in Washington, D.C. and Colorado, was searching for a way to have a special ceremony at the US Air Force Academy football game on September 11, 2010, he came across something interesting on the internet.

He landed on the Post 9/11 Foundation site and read a story which first appeared in American Police Beat about the first flag raising at Ground Zero just 24 hours after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

He contacted veteran NYPD Detective Rich Miller, who along with Richie Hartigan, raised the flag just hours later in the midst of the catastrophe that became known as Ground Zero. Mike and Rich put their heads together and came up with a plan to incorporate the Foundation’s “Follow the Flag” campaign. Mike’s dad, a 4-Star General in the U.S. Air Force, and former Athletic Director and founder of the Falcons Foundation at the USAF Academy, died in 1972 in a plane crash.

Mike and his family had donated the flag that was draped over his father’s casket to the USAF Academy, where it has remained for over 30 years.

Mike and Rich decided it would be a fitting tribute to take the flag to New York City, where Rich, accompanied by his wife Theresa, escorted the flag to Ground Zero where it was raised by a group of Port Authority Police officers.

It was later formally folded by officials from the New York City Fire Department and escorted by the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department.

After flying proudly at Ground Zero, Rich and Theresa took the flag to Colorado, where they were invited to participate in the final escort of this special flag during the first game of the season.

Below is the story by Frank Schwab which appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette shortly before the big game on September 11th.

Keep an eye on the two American flags when they’re brought into Falcon Stadium on Saturday. There is significant meaning behind each one. One was flown in Afghanistan, over a spot where soldiers buried debris from the World Trade Center after a battle, according to Post 9/11 Foundation leader Rich Miller.

The other was flown over the World Trade Center site. That flag was a gift to the academy – it was draped over the casket of Lt. Gen. George Simler, former Air Force athletic director, at his funeral in 1972.

The Air Force decided to have a remembrance ceremony before Saturday’s football game on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and it went all out.

Detective Steve Hayden, a New York police officer and veteran of three branches of the military, and FDNY firefighter Ken Haskell, will be honorary game captains. They were honored by the cadet wing.

“There will not be another event in this country, other than New York City, in a stadium that will compare to it,” said Mike Simler, George Simler’s son, who lauded the Air Force for its efforts in putting the event together.

The stories behind the flags show how every detail was considered. The flag from Afghanistan will be carried out by a Falcons player as he leads the team out of the tunnel.

The Air Force will not reveal who will get that honor. The other flag, which will be parachuted into the stadium, also has special meaning. Mike Simler kept the flag since his father’s funeral. The academy has always been special to the Simler family, and Mike Simler described the academy as a second family.

He wanted to give the academy that flag as a token of the family’s appreciation and also as a tribute to his father.

Simler got in touch with Miller, and while working on some of the details for Saturday’s ceremony at Falcon Stadium, the idea was hatched to use that flag.

“To me, I thought it would be a great honor to have that flag fly over ground zero, and to give to the academy for everything they’ve done for us,” said Simler, who thought his father would be proud to be honored that way. The flag was sent to New York, where the Port Authority allowed it to be flown over the World Trade Center site Sept. 2.

It was taken across the street to FDNY Ladder 10, where two firefighters folded it. The flag was brought back to Colorado the next day.

“It was a great honor to hold that flag and have that flag brought down to the World Trade Center and raised,” Rich Miller told reporters. “I was overwhelmed. It sent chills down my spine.”

For more information visit Post 911 Foundation

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Lone Star Rally & Post 911 Foundation present: FOLLOW THE FLAG Ride for Heroes

Lone Star Rally & Post 911 Foundation present: FOLLOW THE FLAG Ride for Heroes

Friday, November 5th

Support the Flag & our Heroes! Active Military * Veterans * Police * Firefighters

The Follow the Flag campaign began at Ground Zero on September 11th, 2010 with the raising of several flags by the actual heroes of 9/11 over the fallen World Trade Center towers. These same flags have flown over several battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and all of the major military academies. These flags will be on a tour of the United States for one year, returning it to its final resting place at the National 9/11 Museum on the 10 year anniversary of the attack. The Post 911 Foundation will proudly display the flags at a series of local events throughout the country to inspire and remind Americans of the patriotism and pride that brought the nation together after the attacks. Each event will spearhead local fundraising campaigns to support the heroic men and women who have served our country with honor and are now in need of our assistance.

Please join us for a tribute Follow the Flag Ride for Heroes down The Strand culminating at the Country Stage – Harborside at Pier 21. The Ride will be lead by a Flag from Ground Zero carried by the Galveston City Fire Department which will be on display for all to pay their respects.


All riders will receive a commemorative gift & ViP parking sticker

The Spot (logo is at

Bike pre-staging parking

3204 Seawall Blvd, Galveston

6:00 pmFollow The Flag presentation & hero recognition

Ground Zero 9/11 Flag Display

Country Stage – Harborside at Pier 21

The Post 911 Foundation was created with the intent to provide a higher quality of life to the first responders and veterans that keep us safe in our times of need. With your support, the Post 911 Foundation creates and funds peer support programs for our nation’s finest heroes.

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Biker with a Badge

One thing that helps keep me centered is being invited to participate in humbling events. I am a patriot and fully understand that if not for the “American way of life”, we would not enjoy so much that we take for granted. On this past September 11th, I was honored
to be a part of the “Rolling Thunder Follow the Flag” ride. Several things made this a very memorable event for me. First it marked “Patriot Day” and a day in infamy that we as Americans will never forget. Next, it was a day that brought together people from
different parts of the biker community. Third was how we paid homage to the members of our Armed Forces and Public Safety men & women that stand between citizens and evil. Fourth, but not least, we paid respects and brotherhood with a wounded
warrior Romy Camargo. Romy’s unit was pinned down in a fire fight in Afghanistan, and without hesitation, he scrambled fromthe ground and up into the turret of a vehicle mounted machine gun to lay suppression fire. An enemy bullet caught him in the neck causing catastrophic spinal injury. He was our guest of honor and it was an honor to meet him.

We gathered early the morning of the 11th at The Ride Factory in Ybor City. This group known as “Ride Factory One” designated the flag riders escorting flags flown at ground zero to the City of Palmetto. The flags are part of a year-long patriotic program which
will have them returned to the National 911 Museum for next year’s 10th anniversary. Our group consisted of riders from the sponsoring bike clubs and was led by Brigadier General Bob Holmes, USAF Ret.. There were no attitudes by anyone, just the brotherhood
of riders coming together for our country. General Holmes and General Dave Scott, US Army Special Forces, Ret., who are part of the Post 911 Foundation which helped organize
the ride and the flag program, were professional and detail oriented, but very approachable. Our ride Captains, Brian Keeth and Ed “Fast Eddie” McGurk, did
a great job keeping us safe and on schedule.

The flag riders left The Ride Factory at 6:50AM headed for Palmetto. Once there we were escorted by fire and police units to the ceremony. We walked down a path lined with citizens saluting, cheering and waving flags. An honor guard presented Gen. Holmes with one of the Ground Zero Flags and in turn he presented it to the Mayor of Palmetto. We were excused by the Mayor in order to get back to Tampa for the next ceremony at
Tampa Fire Station #15. We were met by more riders and our honored guest, Romy. The station holds a memorial ceremony each year at the exact same time as the collapse of the second WTC tower. We then mounted up and on this leg of the ride, we included
Romy in a specially built wheelchair sidecar, driven by General Scott. While recovering in the hospital Romy talked of riding and missing the road. He can now take short rides in his custom bike. We made the ride down Bayshore and again were greeted by more flag
wavers along the way. The destination was the Tampa Convention Center where General Holmes presented a flag to Mayor Pam Iori. Tribute speeches were made and we again mounted up and made the trip to Valrico to “The Pole Barn” for an afternoon of bikes, music, food and drink, and more heartfelt speeches.

I want to thank all of the sponsoring clubs who came together under one club banner,
The American Flag. Recognize these clubs as patriots; Special Forces MC, Steel
Swine, Tampa Heat, Iron Pigs MC, Defenders MC, Rolling Thunder 11, Nam Knights MC, The Blue Knights FL. 27, and the Untouchables MC. In additton we had unbelievable
support from The Ride factory, as well as GOFAR Magazine, AMVETS, Bikers Bay, “Party Party” our Pole Barn Mistress of Ceremony, Police & Fire escorts from the cities of Palmetto and Tampa, and the list goes on. Please forgive me if I let you out. After all, I intended the article to be about the humbling experience and not about swelled heads. I was truly humbled when I was allowed to “Follow the Flag”. I was honored to
meet a war hero like Romy who still fights the battle everyday of his life. I was impressed at the outpouring of the community that still believes that God Blesses America. I was in brotherhood with the stories from New York police and firemen telling about the day
they rushed into the collapsing WTC and lost their brother and sister officers. As a police officer I can relate to the stories of sacrifice, I am very respectful of what they went through, thankful it was not me, and very grateful that there were true America Heroes
on the line.


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Tamp Bay area remembers 911

For more information or to get involved visit

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Carrying Flag has Special Meaning for Dowd


Staff WriterCapital Gazette Communications

Published 09/27/10

John Dowd was extremely proud to be asked to carry an American flag onto the field for Navy’s home opener on Sept. 11. The junior left guard grew downright emotional when he learned the background behind the particular flag he held high while leading the Navy football team out of the tunnel to a standing ovation from the 33,391 fans at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

“I can’t describe how much that meant to me. Carrying the flag out for our team is a big deal. It was very special for me to be asked, especially since it was the anniversary of Sept. 11,” Dowd said.

Dowd received the honor of carrying a flag that was raised at ground zero the previous week by Det. Rich Miller and other volunteers with the Post 9-11 Foundation to kick off a nationwide campaign to unify and honor civil first responders and military service personnel. Three of the flags raised at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City were hand-delivered to the Air Force Academy, United States Military Academy and Naval Academy to be displayed during football games.

It was certainly fitting that Dowd was asked by head coach Ken Niumatalolo to carry the flag from ground zero onto the field in Annapolis. Dowd hails from Staten Island, a borough of New York City that has a huge population of civil servants. In fact, 280 Staten Island residents were killed due to the destruction of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11.

Dowd was 11 years old when his community was rocked by the unspeakable events of Sept. 11, 2001. His father, Thomas Dowd, is a retired lieutenant with the New York City Police Department. His grandfather and uncles on mother Kathy’s side were New York City firefighters.

Although just a sixth grader, Dowd remembers all too well the tense aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks and how it affected his close-knit community.

“The first day, you just waited and prayed that your parents got home safe, and the parents of the other kids on your block got home safe. By the next day, word started spreading about people that were missing, and it’s just horrible,” Dowd said. “It really hits home when it’s the father of the kid you played basketball with or the lady down the street you shoveled snow for.”

Dowd developed into an outstanding football player, a three-year lettermen at St. Peter’s Boys School and a two-time All-Star selection by the Staten Island Advance. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder was also valedictorian of his senior class and vice president of the St. Peter’s chapter of the National Honor Society. Those academic and athletic credentials gave the youngster an ideal opportunity to help heal the wounds inflicted by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

“It made a big impact on me. After the attack on the Twin Towers, I just knew that I had to serve this country in some way,” he said. “I feel very fortunate that I was able to follow this path. If I didn’t do as well in school, I would have probably enlisted in the service.

“Det. Rich Miller of the NYPD, a former Marine, has been recognized as the first responder to raise an American flag at ground zero after the attacks while executing recovery efforts. Miller lost many men from his Emergency Services Unit that day and created the Post 9-11 Foundation as a tribute to them.

This latest effort to honor the sacrifices by made by the many New York City emergency personnel that died when the Twin Towers collapsed began with obtaining American flags that had flown over special operations bases in Afghanistan. Det. Miller had those flags raised at ground zero for several days before dispersing them around the country.

Capt. John Flynn, who served 20 years with the New York City Fire Department, was asked to escort one of the flags to the Naval Academy. Capt. Flynn commanded HAZMAT Company One, a citywide squad based out of Queens that lost 19 of 21 members on Sept. 11.

Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, the Naval Academy superintendent, hosted Flynn at a reception prior to the opener against Georgia Southern. Flynn also was asked to participate in the pregame coin toss after delivering the flag that Dowd would present.

“I feel it’s important to unite the people that protect us from within to the people that protect us from without. Whether home or abroad, we are often fighting the same enemy, a fact the events of Sept. 11 illustrated very vividly,” Flynn said. “To know the flag I brought to the Naval Academy football game was carried onto the field by a player from Staten Island makes me even more proud. That is very, very fitting.

“Moments before the Navy football team took the field, Kathy Dowd received a text message from her son. It read: “Carrying special flag. Watch for it.” Dowd had never texted his mother the day of a game, much less minutes before kickoff. When Tom and Kathy Dowd saw No. 68 sprinting out of the tunnel carrying an American flag, they were overcome with emotion.

“You have no idea how significant this moment was for our family. Being from New York City and having so many friends and family that were touched by Sept. 11… it was just monumental for John to be asked to represent Navy football by carrying that flag on the anniversary,” Kathy Dowd said.

The Dowds attend Sacred Heart Church, which had nine members killed during the World Trade Center attacks. Among those was Stephen Siller, whose widow works as a nurse with Kathy Dowd and whose five children attended the same schools as John Dowd and his siblings.

“My husband and I both volunteered in the aftermath of 9/11. We lost nine members of our parish and went to many funerals. We participate in an annual run to honor Stephen Siller and visit ground zero,” Kathy Dowd said. “John was deeply moved by what happened on Sept. 11 and it is one of the main reasons why he went to the Naval Academy. Coach Ken has touched all of our hearts tremendously with this gesture.”

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A Note from The Athletic Director of the Air Force Academy

A quick note of thanks to everyone for the tremendous team effort to commemorate the tragic events of 9/11 at the football game this past weekend. I know it was a long process and a great deal of work by all of you, but the appreciation on the faces of those we honored was priceless. It was a humbling experience to be a small part of it all and I can’t thank all of you enough for your efforts. The recognition this tribute got in the local and national arena was a great positive for USAFA, the Athletic Department and our football program and a direct reflection on each and every one of you.

Thank you. GO FALCONS!!!

Derm DERMOT J COLL, Associate Athletic Director

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Rally Serves Notice Army Football is Back

By Kevin Gleason


WEST POINT — The day began with an Army football backup named SeanWestphal helping lead teammates onto the Michie Stadium turf carrying the Americanflag high above his head. The flag had flown above the World Trade Center sitethe week leading to Saturday, the nine-year anniversary of 9/11. Now it wasinside a football stadium with 30,000 people cheering and a 21-year-old senior fromFlorida running the most exciting play of his college football career.”Yes sir, I just felt it would be an honor to carry it,” Westphalexplained afterward. “It’s the greatest country in the world. I thought it would bea way to represent my team and my country.”Westphal didn’t play as a freshman and missed his sophomore season becauseof knee injures. He played a little at linebacker and on special teams as ajunior, and got some minutes in last week’s opener at Eastern Michigan. He wouldget a little run on Saturday against Hawaii.But he probably will never experience a similar college football momentthan bursting onto the field with that flag. Westphal was representing thefootball team, the corps, the Academy, and in his mind, the United States ofAmerica.He ran onto the field with something other than a flag and a uniform hewas eager to dirty. He brought impenetrable belief that Army would take asizable step in its growth by beating high-powered Hawaii. And he believed this,swear to God, as Army looked completely overmatched down 21-0 just 18½ minutesinto the game.This wasn’t Hawaii benefiting from a couple turnovers or stealing a fluky touchdown. This was Hawaii doing exactly as it pleased, largely with apassing game that made Army look a couple steps slow and several meeting hoursshort of preparedness.”I had no doubt in the world we would win,” said Westphal, told justbefore the game that his request to carry the flag had been granted. “I knew we weregoing to win.”There always has been a unique sense of belief here at the Academy. Butthat belief system suffered cracks during many of the 14 years since Army’slast winning season in 1996. Such are the effects of perpetual losing, whetherfelt inside the locker room or inside the fan base.Second-year coach Rich Ellerson brought the proper pedigree for Academyfootball success. So when he helped the Black Knights win five games last season,its most since that 10-2 breakthrough in 1996, many more folks than SeanWestphal started to believe in big things for Army football.But boy was Ellerson and Army testing the fans’ faith with a total of zerofirst downs and a 21-0 deficit through 19 minutes. Then it happened, at firstsubtly, then with sledgehammer-on-pavement fury, Army made it all the way back.It finally put together a decent drive, got into the end zone and intohalftime at 21-7. Got the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 68 yards fora touchdown. Got the fumble recovery when Hawaii botched the ensuingkickoff. Got another TD off the turnover and here we were, 21-21, only midway throughthe third quarter.This was the way fans had remembered Army football. Not done until thefinal second ticked off, no matter the opponent, the deficit, the feeling. Thiswas the kind of magical game that kept Army fans coming back through all theyears of disappointment, of bad hires and unprepared players amounting to someof the most God-awful losses.But the way Army came back on Saturday — seemingly finished barely aquarter into it, a backup quarterback named Max Jenkins admirably filling in forinjured starter Trent Steelman — undoubtedly sent a surge of sweet nostalgiathrough its fan base. Army football, measured by blood and guts, was back.There was no Hollywood ending, not this time. Hawaii finished the game theway it had started. Quarterback Bryant Moniz played pitch-and-catch with open receivers and moved Hawaii 58 yards in 17 seconds to set up a 31-yardfield goal with just 7.3 ticks on the clock. Hawaii won 31-28.”We weren’t surprised when we came back,” Army linebacker StephenAnderson said.Someone asked Anderson, the team captain, how he would pick up his team.”Grab your brother’s shoulder, look him in the eye and tell him everything isgoing to be OK,” he said.Not a bad choice of words, especially on this day, when it began withanother linebacker carrying a special American flag.

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Part of the 9/11 pregame events at the US Air Force Academy on will be the U.S. Flag being jumped into Falcon Stadiumby the Air Force Academy’s “Wings of Blue”. For more info visit

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Post 911 Foundation and Thunder Rolls are commemorating Patriot’s Day, September 11, 2010, with a Ground Zero US flag presentation to the City of Palmetto.

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We will be ringing the closing bell of the NASDAQ tomorrow evening at 4:00pm. We will have 4 honored guests who will be speaking and ringing the closing bell together. Our ceremony will be televised on the 7 story high, NASDAQ Screen in Times Square. For more visit /

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