"Iowa State requested the fly-over," said Brig. Gen. Joe Lucas, a former wing commander at the Air Guard who, for the past three years, has been commander of the Air Guard. "Three of the pilots in the fly-over are graduates of Iowa State, one is a graduate of Iowa."
Pilots and many others representing the Iowa Air Guard have had considerable experience serving at bases that have put them in the thick of happenings in Iraq and surrounding areas in recent years.
It was just eight months ago that some of the Iowans serving their nation received national attention at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
On the night of Jan. 2, Robert Gallery — a 6-7, 320-pound Iowa offensive tackle from Masonville, Ia. — carried a special American flag high in the air as he and his teammates raced onto the field just before the Hawkeyes' game against Southern California started. The photo later served as the cover of the August 2003 issue of Hawkeye Illustrated magazine.
It was a moment that was magical and emotional. "There were some troops over there from Iowa and they actually sent it over and requested that we bring it into the stadium," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz explained. "Normally, I'm not going to do something like that, but it was a pretty special request.
"How do you say no to those guys? What they were doing was a little bigger than what we were doing. We did it in honor of the Iowans and all the Americans over there."
I asked Ferentz why Gallery was picked to be the player to carry the flag.
"He's our tallest guy," the coach said. "He's strong and wouldn't drop it"
Gallery described the airmen who sent the flag as "big Hawk fans. They sent it to us and asked if we'd carry it out, saying it would mean a great deal to them if we'd carry it out before the game.
"It was a great honor for us and for our country. It was a real cool moment. I talked to a lot of people, and it brought tears to their eyes to see that happen. It's real cool knowing I was the only one to do it."
Gallery added that the flag experience made him feel "like I was carrying our team into the next season. It was my role as a leader."
Lucas explained the request for an Iowa player to carry the flag into the Orange Bowl this way: "It was a personal request from airmen who were reflecting the pride they have in being part of the 132nd Fighter Wing.
"That makes it kind of neat because people are saying they're proud to be in the unit, even though the command didn't endorse it. We got surprised. All of a sudden, the wing flag was being carried out with the Iowa football team. "It was picked up by the media and the coach under the auspices of the wing."
Vol. 3, No. 46
Sept. 12, 2003
[Ron Maly will watch the Iowa-Iowa State football game from the press box. However, he plans to go down the elevator and into the stadium shortly after 11 a.m. so he can observe the pregame activities. His son, Major Mark Maly, will be one of the four F-16 pilots from the 132nd Fighter Wing who will fly over the stadium at 11:30. Ron will be a very proud man when that happens].