A backyard chat between two former military buddies has led to a symbolic gesture that will forever engender pride among Marco Island Fire Rescue personnel.
A Marco Island Fire Rescue (MIFR) flag that flew in an HH60 Blackhawk helicopter on four combat missions in the Syria/Iraq arena is due for permanent placement in the day room of the newly completed Station 51 on East Elkcam Circle.
Dedication of the Station takes place March 15 at 3:30 PM at the site.
Instrumental in the flag traversing halfway across the world and ending up back on Marco Island are MIFR Captain Leo Rodriguez, veteran Scott Greenwell, and his pilot son, Robert Douglas “RD” Greenwell.
“I was in the military in 1992 and I got my best friend Scott to join as well,” Rodriguez said.
RD in turn joined the military at about 10 years ago at 18 and subsequently became a helicopter pilot.
“Scotty and I were hanging out one day, and we were talking about making a flag for the department,” Rodriguez said. “I thought it would be nice for RD to take the flag everywhere he was going.”
“He did one better. He took it on four combat missions (in 2018). His unit signed the flag and he got a certificate from the army that describes the operation and sorties. We also got a patch from the unit.”
Rodriguez said the whole effort is gratifying.
“We’re pretty much all serving the public,” he said of firefighters and the military respectively.
Flags folded in triangles always fly with pilots on missions, Rodriguez said, and this one has a couple of dusty marks on it that represent its to and fro journeys from Marco and also in the Middle East.
Those marks will not be cleaned up before placement in the station, he said.
Scott Greenwell is naturally proud of his son.
“He’s in Northern Iraq with the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, and operates from Syria to Jordan as well as Iraq and Kuwait,” Greenwell said. “We last saw him in June of last year.”
“Leo shipped the flag to my son along with a care package,” Greenwell said.
The new station is rated a Category 5 resistant structure, and will house up to five MIFR personnel with a minimum of three at any given time, Rodriguez said.
The station also assumes the duty of marine response.
Rodriguez, incidentally, was recently named MIFR’s Firefighter of the Year, and you can read about his recognition at coastalbreezenews.com.