Steelers flag flies over Iraq
As someone who set up free Internet cafes that allowed U.S. soldiers to contact their families from Iraq, Justin Burtosky enjoyed a job that brought smiles to the troops during breaks in combat.
When the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII, the 33-year-old from Ligonier commemorated the occasion by flying a flag adorned with the team's helmet at the highest point of Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad, where elements of a Pennsylvania National Guard brigade were stationed.
"The base is full of people from Pennsylvania, and it was a party for the Super Bowl," said Burtosky, who was embedded there for three years while working as a satellite communications and IT specialist for a military defense contractor. "A lot of soldiers saw that and it really lifted morale."
It was especially uplifting, Burtosky said, because of the rarity of the occasion. And he wasn't talking about the Steelers' Super Bowl victory.
Burtosky has special plans for the flag that flew over Iraq a year ago today.
"What I want to do is present it to the organization to commemorate their win," Burtosky said. "That's my intention, to give it to the Steelers, because this isn't ever done."
When the Steelers won their AFC Divisional playoff game against San Diego last year, Burtosky ordered the flag and promised to fly it if they won their sixth Super Bowl. When they beat the Arizona Cardinals on Santonio Holmes' last-minute touchdown catch, he received permission to fly the flag atop the three-story garrison command.
"Aside from the giant microwave towers, the buildings don't get higher than this," Burtosky said. "No flags are flown atop the mast; state flags for Reserves and National Guard are flown, but not above the top of building. Most flags don't fly higher than buildings. It was pretty cool to see."