NEW YORK -- The New York/New Jersey Port Authority controls several sites in the Greater New York metropolitan region, including the city's major airports, bridges, and tunnels and the World Trade Center, which they owned and leased prior to September 11th. The Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) lost 37 officers during the attacks and now the memory of their heroism and sacrifices will travel with the Marines on the tip of the spear this summer.
Officer Barry Pikaard of the PAPD is not the departments' public information officer, but he has been instrumental in ensuring that those 37 officers will remain alive in the memories of people around the globe. Pikaard was part of a delegation that accompanied three flags that had been flown in Afghanistan and which were returned to New York after flying out to the USS Roosevelt on its way back home. He met the ship roughly 300 miles east of Bermuda, and rode it to its homeport in Norfolk before flying back to New York. After this journey, he got the idea to continue this partnership between his department and the military by adopting a deploying unit. "I thought the Port Authority, with the losses we had, could use a tribute to our fallen brothers," said Pikaard. The PAPD lost a much greater percentage of its staff than other emergency units that responded, and was the lead agency in response to the attacks, he added. "It was our (World) Trade Center."
Pikaard approached the military branches with the idea of working with a unit that is preparing for deployment, possibly to Operation Enduring Freedom. Eventually Officer Pickaard was put in touch with Headquarters Marine Corps and ultimately the 24th MEU.
Last month as part of Fleet Week, in which Navy ships visit New York's harbor bringing Sailors and Marines for ceremonies and liberty, the two organizations met on Marine Day in the Park, Col. Richard Mills, commanding officer, 24th MEU, received the PAPD's flag along with an American flag flown at Ground Zero. Both flags will accompany the MEU on its upcoming deployment to the Mediterranean this summer.
At the ceremony's opening, reserve Marines from 2nd Bn, 25th Marines marched alongside New York City Police carrying one of the three flags from the towers on the day of the attacks, bearing signatures from those who had been directly impacted that day.
The partnership will consist of exchanges of photographs and emails between the MEU and the PAPD during the upcoming deployment, and each organization will display the logos of their partners in prominent places. Next year, the flag will be returned to New York, along with memorabilia from the MEU's deployment.
During the ceremony, Mills addressed the crowd, filled with a mix of police officers, reporters, Marines and citizens of New York, and made a pledge. "As I move my unit to deployment this summer, perhaps even to the sound of the guns, I promise the people of the city of New York that this flag will be well served, will be in our forefront, and will be returned here with honor and dignity next year."