When retired Master Sergeant Guy Rex decided to re-enlist in the U.S. Army in 1996, he was given his choice of where he'd like that re-enlistment to take place. His brother was serving in another branch of the U.S. military at the time, and after he and Guy were both stationed in Hawaii, they decided to do a dual enlistment at the site of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Guy tells us one of the first things he and his brother did after signing their re-enlistment papers was visit the memorial to raise an American flag at the site where many of the ship's 1,177 crewmen lost their lives. The brothers arrived by private boat "with special permission" from the U.S. Park Service. "My brother and I each had flags and raised them on the (U.S.S.) Arizona flag pole," Guy tells us. "After the re-enlistment ceremony, each flag was given a certificate by the Park Service stating that they were flown in honor of our re-enlistment."
For the past 20 years, that flag has stayed in Guy's possession, following him from Hawaii to his current home in Wisconsin, where he works as a licensed practical nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. Earlier this month, as the country prepared to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Guy decided to take the flag out of storage and "loan" it to his employer. His idea? Fly the flag over the hospital on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day as a "tribute to patients, citizens and other military veterans of that generation." He tells us he tried to do that with as little fanfare as possible. "There was no ceremony or anything like that," Guy says, adding that he "brought the flag to the hospital the week before and then left town.''
Even though he may not have been looking for it, Guy tells us an outpouring of appreciation managed to find him. "I had some people … from the hospital email and text me while I was out of town," he says. "They all just said that it was a nice gesture and then they thanked me for my own service to the country … which I honestly feel uncomfortable receiving, because it was an awesome experience for me. I don't need anyone to thank me for it."
Be that as it may, Guy tells us there was one email in particular that perfectly summed up his "whole intent" for lending his flag to Mayo Clinic on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. A woman "emailed me to say her father had fought at Pearl Harbor and that she felt a personal connection to seeing my flag fly over the hospital that day," Guy says. "Hearing that was pretty special for me."
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