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December 2, 2020

Freedom Unfurled | The story regarding the U.S. Flag in The Center’s lobby.

Freedom interwoven into the fabric of everyday American life is expressed in a variety of ways. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are among our unalienable rights as citizens of the world’s greatest country. American freedom is matchless yet comes with the highest of associated costs. There are countless ways to express the freedom we embrace. Perhaps there is no greater representation of American freedom than that of The United States Flag.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Petty officer second class, Jason Brune, was serving his country aboard the USNS Pecos as a communications officer in the United States Navy. His rank and experience uniquely positioned him to serve as an electronics technician and to provide communications leadership while aboard the Pecos. The massive naval ship functioned as an oil replenishment vessel of The United States Navy Sealift Command, which provided replenishment of fuel, fleet cargo and stores to customer ships at sea while underway. The ship was positioned in the Indian Ocean and was preparing to put into Diego Garcia, a United States naval installation, as they were experiencing mechanical issues with the ship’s engine turbines, as well as the fire suppression system.

When approaching Diego Garcia, the ship’s Captain directed Jason to establish radio communications and to request permission to enter the port. Upon making the request, he was advised by Diego Garcia communications that their request had been denied and was ordered to put back out to sea. The Captain of The Pecos then instructed Jason to inform Diego Garcia that they had already received clearance to enter the port for emergency repairs. Again, the request was denied. In an attempt to gain access into the port, the Pecos exchanged numerous radio transmissions with Diego Garcia, to no avail. Diego Garcia ultimately advised the Pecos to put back to sea and to set sail for their home port. The Pecos was 14 days steaming from their homeport in Singapore, which would likely be an unsuccessful voyage as the mechanical issues continued to overshadow the situation. It was obvious that Diego Garcia was withholding information, but it was unclear why. In efforts to help the Pecos, Diego Garcia did offer to send support if the ship couldn’t reach their homeport in Singapore. However, that gesture provided little consolation as looming questions remained unanswered.

The silence aboard the Pecos was deafening as the crew began to wonder if a nuclear weapon had been detonated. The Captain instructed Jason to take whatever means necessary to find out what had occurred. After failed attempts to discover what was happening, Jason was finally able to monitor civilian radio stations in the area. What he heard would forever change the course of American history. He and the crew learned that two airplanes had collided with the World Trade Center in New York City in an act of terrorism. It was also learned that a plane had collided with the Pentagon, our nation’s symbol of American strength and defense. Additionally, it was later discovered that a passenger plane had crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, yielding no survivors. Along with the rest of the world, the crew aboard the Pecos loathed these cowardly acts of terrorism against the United States of America, while gaining new resolve to protect freedom from terror at all costs. America mourned together as thousands lost their lives.

With ongoing mechanical failures, The Pecos continued toward Singapore. The three-week journey at sea seemed more like three years as the crew gained more information regarding the events surrounding 9/11. It all seemed surreal. The ship finally arrived in Singapore 21 days later, which was an entire week longer than expected. Needless to say, the crew was thankful to have safely completed the long journey at sea.

On Jason’s final day aboard the USNS Pecos, the Captain expressed his gratitude towards Jason in a unique, honorable fashion. As a token of appreciation, the Captain presented Jason with the ship’s massive battle flag that had been proudly flown above the Pecos on that unforgettable morning. This was an honor reserved for Jason as his resolve and leadership proved exemplary on that unforgettable day that would forever shape American history. Jason’s resolve on that day mirrored the resolve of an entire nation that would vow to fight terror and protect American freedom at all costs.

The US battle flag that was presented to Jason serves as a continual reminder of American freedom and the countless sacrifices made to protect it. So that the flag could be seen by many, Jason and his father Charles, presented the flag to The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, KY. Charles Brune previously served at The Center as Law Enforcement Liaison for the Federal Excess Property Program which was part of the National Law Enforcement Corrections and Technology Center (NLECTC) for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). He found it fitting that the flag be on display at The Center. This gesture serves as an incredible honor not only for The Center, but for everyone that sees the flag on display. “The flag contained in this box has a place in history and I thought The Center for Rural Development would be a perfect place to display it,” says Brune. “I hope you, the people working at The Center for Rural Development, and the people of Somerset, Kentucky will enjoy viewing this flag and always remind everyone of the sacrifices that our military makes for us each and every day.”

“The Brune Family’s generosity will not soon be forgotten”, says Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO of The Center for Rural Development. “The flag is proudly displayed in the atrium of The Center and serves as a constant reminder of American freedom, honoring those who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the American way of life.”
The Center for Rural Development honors Jason Brune, as well as all American military service members who’ve served, fought, and/or died to protect our great nation. We thank you for your sacrifice. The US Flag that is proudly displayed represents freedom unfurled at The Center, The Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the United States of America.

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