By Sgt. Matthew Damon, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry
According to Merriam-Webster, a flag is a piece of fabric, usually rectangular in shape, of distinctive design that is used as a symbol of a nation. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, which described how the first flag of the United States was to be designed. “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
There have been several variations of the flag of the United States. One particular variation is the Bennington Flag. Typical of Revolution era flags, the Bennington flag features 13 stars and 13 stripes to symbolize the 13 American colonies in rebellion against Great Britain. Inside the 13 stars is a large “76” referencing the year that the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The Bennington Flag also has a few other unique characteristics. The blue field is taller than other flags, spanning nine stripes instead of the usual seven. The majority of American flags feature 5-point stars, while the Bennington Flag features 7-point stars.
One particular Bennington Flag was flown in Germany in 1968-1970. Specialist 4 Jennings Michael Runyon, a generator repairer assigned to Alpha Company, 46th Medical Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, received the flag upon completion of his assignment. Living in Ashland, Kentucky, Runyon served his country faithfully and raised a family.
Runyon’s grandson, Spc. Jacob Holley, an infantryman assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division, received the flag from his grandfather prior to his passing in January 2022. To honor his grandfather, Holley brought the flag with him on deployment to Europe.
“I joined the military because of the example that my grandfather set,” said Holley. “I want to be able to honor the man that helped raise me.”
When Holley was 15 years old, his father passed away. Runyon took Holley and his brother in and raised them to be the men they are today.
Holley is currently serving on NATO’s Kosovo Forces, KFOR, mission in Kosovo. Prior to arriving in Kosovo, the flag made a stop back in Germany at The Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, marking the first time the flag had returned to Europe. Holley, along with the other members of his platoon, posed for a photograph with the flag.
“I think we have a duty and responsibility to preserve this history,” said Lt. Col. Jason Mendez, commander 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division. “We are fortunate to have that personal connection to this history through Spc. Holley and his grandfather.”
While in Kosovo, the flag was flown above the camp to honor Runyon. The flag remains displayed in Holley’s living quarters. Holley hopes to have the flag flown on an aviation mission across Kosovo.
“Spc. Holley’s love for his grandfather and admiration of his service has instilled a love of country that resonates through Spc. Holley today,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Metzgar, Spc. Holley’s platoon leader. “I’m thankful to be part of the leadership to honor this and help preserve history for future generations.”
On the civilian side, Holley is a trained diesel mechanic, but serves in another capacity as a moving and maintenance supervisor at King’s Daughters Medical Center. Holley is currently engaged and has a 3-year-old daughter. Holley intends to pass the flag along to his next generation to continue honoring his grandfather.
Mendez continued, “So often we find our Soldiers come from a ‘family of service’; families who over the years develop a legacy of commitment to our profession of arms. Spc. Holley’s family is an example of this, and we are grateful for their service and sacrifice. This flag, Spc. Holley, and Holley’s grandfather will forever be part of the Mountain Warrior Battalion.”
National Guard Soldiers from Kentucky currently represent a portion of the U.S.’ contribution toward the 3,600 troops provided to KFOR by 28 countries working towards maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo.