Jillian and Lillyana DiPietro show off the flag and provenance certificate gifted to Sandshore by their father

 

An American flag that watched over National Guard Captain James DiPietro in Iraq is on display in the Sandshore main office, symbolically watching over his daughters, fourth-grader Jillian and fifth-grader Lillyana.

The flag, which DiPietro recently gave to the school, has a noted history. This summer, it was one of the last flags to fly over the Taji military complex north of Baghdad during the post’s closure as a base for coalition forces and transfer back to the Iraqi government. Camp Taji had been staffed by U.S. and coalition troops since 2003.

The school gift came as a surprise to both Jillian and Lillyana. While they last saw their dad in person on June 14, a day they remember well, they text him nearly every day and video chat with him every chance they can; in those conversations, DiPietro never mentioned the flag that was en route to the school or the letter that accompanied it.

“I would be absolutely honored to have you display this flag for them [his daughters] to see,” he wrote in the letter addressed to Principal Jennifer Curry. “I would also like them to know that I may not be with them there, but they are always in my thoughts here and I love them with all my heart.”

A photo of the flag flying over Camp Taji and a certificate attesting to its historic provenance also accompanied the flag.

DiPietro, part of the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 42nd Regional Support Group in Somerset, is currently deployed at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Middle East.

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