KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – When the word legacy comes to mind, one envisions an elderly person leaving their empire behind to a family member. One example is the movie Little Big League when the owner of the Minnesota Twins passed away and left his legacy of the Twins to his grandson in middle school. Legacies are not limited to businesses or franchises, but often include family heirlooms such as a necklace, pocket watch, or a flag.
One such legacy is an American flag cared for by Allen K. Hoe. The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade had the opportunity to be a small part of the legacy during its deployment to Afghanistan. The flag has been watching over Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam since 1967.
Allen Hoe began the legacy of the Hoe Battle Flag in December of 1967 during his time in Recon Team Snoopy, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam.
“This flag is more than just an assemblage of cloth and thread,” said Allen Hoe, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii and a lawyer who also serves as a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. “It remains a remarkable living symbol of duty, honor, and country. As the combat medic in the battalion’s long range recon team, I carried the largest pack so I had room to carry the flag. That is what Soldiers did, pick up bits and pieces of home and carry them as talisman of honor or tribute.”
The battle flag was carried by Allen Hoe in 1967 and 1968 across the battlefields of Vietnam. On Mother’s Day in 1968, the battle flag’s special mission came into sharp focus when Hoe’s platoon lost 18 Soldiers to include their platoon leader 1st Lt. Frederick Ransbottom. The surviving members of the platoon requested Hoe carry the flag with him until their platoon leader’s body was recovered.
“Those of us who survived promised if and when [Ransbottom’s] remains were recovered, we would attend his services and present this flag to his family,” stated Allen Hoe.
Allen Hoe safeguarded the flag for 30 years until it returned to Vietnam in 1998. Bill Wright, and Dickie Hites of the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, carried the flag while continuing the search for Ransbottom and another undiscovered member of the platoon, Skip Skivington.
In 2004, it was carried by Marine Capt. Rodrigo Cantu, an aide to camp for Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, 25th Infantry Division Commander at the time, for the flag’s first deployment to Afghanistan. It was flown over the Headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force 76 in honor of the men of Recon Team Snoopy on Sept. 11, 2004 at Bagram Airfield.
The next chapter for the flag began in Oct. 2004 with 2nd Platoon. Company C, 3-21 Inf., Gimlets, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID. The Soldier requesting to carry the flag was Allen Hoe’s son, 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe.
“My son asked me one day to send him the Recon Battle Flag,” recalled Allen Hoe. “He said ‘my men want to carry it to honor the men who served with you in Vietnam, especially in honor of your Lieutenant, Fred Ransbottom. So began its second journey, if you will; a son’s tribute to his dad and the men he served with in combat.”
The flag’s trip to Mosul in 2004 with Nainoa Hoe’s platoon was a symbolic way to connect the father’s generation of Soldiers to his son’s generation of Soldiers.
“The specialness of the flag was not lost on my son Nainoa and his Outlaws, 2nd Platoon, C/3-12 Inf.,” Allen Hoe said. “He had grown up knowing the story of its legacy and what it represented, to dad and his buddies who fought in Vietnam.”
On Jan. 22, 2005, 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe was carrying the battle flag on a mission in the neighborhood of Palastine in the Ninevah Province when they were engaged by a sniper who shot and killed Nainoa Hoe. Two days later at the memorial services for Nainoa Hoe, the flag watched over his fellow Soldiers as they grieved for their loss.
“Is it fate that the battle flag which protected me through the grim days of 1967 and 1968 in Vietnam would be carried by my son Nainoa and his platoon the day he was killed in Iraq,” questioned Allen Hoe. Two years later, the U.S. Army dedicated the battle simulation training center at Schofield Barracks as the 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe Battle Command Training Center as the flag flew in his honor.
After the loss of his son, Allen Hoe continued the legacy of the battle flag by sending it with Soldiers on significant dates and missions. The flag watched over Soldiers from Allen Hoe’s old Battalion, 2-1 Inf., as they conducted combat patrols on Mother’s Day 2006, after they replaced Nainoa’s unit in Iraq.
In 2006, the remains of Allen Hoe’s platoon leader and Skivington were discovered where they had laid for 38 years. The flag was also flown in ceremonies for the return of Ransbottom and Skivington to Hickam Air Force Base, the replanting and dedication of the Olive “Freedom Tree” planted in honor of Skivington in 1972, and burial ceremonies of Ransbottom and Skivington. Allen Hoe had fulfilled his promise to his platoon. But the legacy continued.
“As long as our country is compelled to send our men and women in uniform into harm’s way to serve our cause for freedom, the battle flag will be there to lend a little of its own spirit as a symbol of what is most important to each of us who have had the duty and honor to serve our country,” said Allen Hoe.
The flag is symbolic for Soldiers who served with Nainoa Hoe and the history of the flag is shared with those who do not know him by those who did know Nainoa Hoe.
In May 2007, it was present at Camp Darby, Italy, for the promotion ceremony of Nainoa’s platoon sergeant Corey Myers for his promotion to first sergeant. The flag was carried by Lt. Col. Mackey, who served with Nainoa Hoe in Mosul, during a deployment with 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th ID to Iraq. The purpose of this trip was to fly the flag over the battlefield on Jan. 22, 2008 to symbolize the continuing commitment to duty, honor, and country of the Hoe family.
Other family members of the Hoe family continued the legacy as well as many of Nainoa’s comrades. Nainoa Hoe’s brother, Staff Sgt. Nakoa Hoe, carried the flag continuing the mission of duty, honor, and country and to honor the men who fought alongside his father, brother and all men and women who have given their last full measure of devotion to freedom.
“The flag provides them with a connection, if you will, with [Nainoa’s] warrior spirit,” Allen Hoe said. “It also provides them with a sense of duty, honor, and country to take it down range and bring it home again.”
Adding to the legacy, the 25th CAB had the honor to safeguard and fly it during its deployment to Afghanistan.
Allen Hoe requested the 25th CAB to carry the battle flag during their deployment. “I wanted to share the legacy of service with the young warriors who served with the 25th CAB with the Soldiers of my generation, the Vietnam Veterans. I also wanted it to fly again with the UH-60 Black Hawks as it did 45 years ago with another legacy, the UH-1 Huey.”
25th CAB Commander Col. Frank Tate was proud to have the opportunity to continue the legacy.
“While entrusted with the flag, we sought to travel to every corner our Brigade serves in to share the story, history and honor of the flag with as many of our Soldiers as possible,” said Col. Frank Tate, 25th CAB Commander. “It is a huge honor to play a small part in the proud lineage and history of the battle flag and continue the tradition of the 25th [ID] carrying it into combat in honor of Nainoa and all of our fallen heroes.”
Serving as the 1st Sgt. for Company F “Pathfinders,” 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th CAB, 1st Sgt. Christopher McDaniel is no stranger to carrying the battle flag.
“My platoon carried the battle flag for a 2 week period in Northern Baghdad when I was with 2-14 CAV in 2008,” said McDaniel. “Being able to carry the battle flag twice during two different deployments was a great honor. It was a great to be a part of the history and legacy of the Hoe Battle Flag.”
Allen Hoe also chose the 25th CAB for other reasons. “The 25th CAB has been a favorite of mine for a while. Col. Tate is one of my personal heroes.”
When the battle flag is not out with Soldiers continuing the legacy, it rests at a battle command training center located on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, at the end of Trimble Road named after 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe. On the display case, a plaque is etched with “Dad, send me the Battle Flag. My men want to carry it to honor the service and the lives of the men you served with in Vietnam,” as stated by Nainoa Hoe. It will reside there on display sharing its story.
“The flag will make one more trip to Afghanistan,” stated Allen Hoe. “It will go with Col. Tom Mackey, who was my son’s executive officer in 2004.”
The 45 year history of the flag has witnessed several acts of bravery and breathtaking tragedy across the regions of conflict and war. The 25th CAB shared a small part of that legacy and will soon return home to give the battle flag back safely to Allen Hoe. How much longer the legacy will continue, no one knows.
“Today, the flag is a living being representing the ageless ‘fighting spirit of all American warriors’ it has been witness to, and traveled to places that no one warrior has in its lifetime,” said Allen Hoe.