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Flag joins Baysider in hometown

An American flag that once graced the skies of Iraq now flies over the streets of Bayside.

The flag belongs to the Alley Pond Owners Corp. and was a gift from Bayside resident Lt. Ray Perez, a naval reservist who was given the flag after serving in Iraq last year.

To show their appreciation, the co-op association raised the flag at the corner of Cloverdale Boulevard and Union Turnpike, where it will fly until July 4th. When it is not flying, the flag will be on display in the association's office on Springfield Boulevard.

"We really accepted the flag with great pride and honor," said Patricia Rhode, the vice president of the association, which includes 550 homeowners. "He was so enthused, like this is what he was fighting for — the right to come back to his community with this flag."

A modest man of few words, Perez was given the flag by his commanding officer in Baghdad and wanted to share the flag only with members of the community.

"It was either that or keep it in some box or drawer," he said in an interview. "At least this has some meaning behind it."

Perez joined the Navy in 1989. Since then, he has been on both active and reserve duty and has served in peacetime and other conflicts. He has worked closely in military intelligence and thus cannot share too much about his experiences with the Navy.

He was called to duty again in 2006 and after months of training on a military base in Kansas, Perez began his Iraq tour in February 2007. There he was a team leader who trained Iraqi military officers and civilians. He returned to the United States a year later in February.

A Brooklyn native, Perez moved to Bayside in 2001. He has driven by the flag and said it gives him a strange sense of pride.

It makes him proud to see a flag flying in the United States when it last flew in Iraq, he said.

"I'm proud that there's something here that I brought back with me," Perez said.

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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