Flag stretched in black frame behind glass

The Tale of The Traveling Flag

As Americans, we observe a number of holidays.

Memorial Day for those who never made it out of uniform and home to their families.

Veterans Day for those who hung up their uniforms after years of service.

Armed Forces Day for those who are currently serving.

Holidays that honor the lives behind the freedoms gifted to us. A privilege earned on our behalf by those who step up and serve their country. A time that is not to be forgotten.

The School of Nursing added one other military observation – a showcase of support for its alumni who served in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Kristina Spindel, (Nursing ’14) who after multiple deployments, made it her last mission to bring home a Texas Tech flag.

Capt. Joseph Lozada, (Nursing ’13) flight nurse for the U.S. Air Force, packed the flag along with others of symbolic significance, for his deployment to Afghanistan in 2019. The Double T flag represented a long history with TTUHSC and pride in his alma mater. Lozada served on TTUHSC nursing faculty and with UMC Health System in Lubbock, Texas, before joining the military. Describing those in the medical field as “public servants,” Lozada always desired to serve others. He was thankful to help the community but knew there was more he could do. In the military, his reach became that much further, and his service spread to people worldwide. “Honestly, you just can’t be better,” he said.

When Lozada’s deployment ended, he packed up his belongings leaving one thing behind – the Texas Tech flag. The flag no longer belonged to Lozada alone. It signified a camaraderie as multiple service members identified with it as Red Raider alumni or simply as Texans.

Lozada signed off from his deployment at the end of February 2020 by adding his signature on the flag. It wasn’t notoriety for him but the “thought of leaving a legacy that would be there for all to see throughout time,” he said.

Fast forward to fall 2020. Spindel is among the last wave of U.S. military troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, following a presidential order. Spindel, while serving her second tour at Bagram Air Base, added her signature to the flag’s scarlet field, and brought it home. Yet, the flag’s travels weren’t quite over. Spindel and Lozada worked together to secure the signatures of fellow Red Raider nurses who’d served at Bagram Air Base. They shipped the flag across the country, its travels now following the responses they received.

Diana Long, MSN, RN, (Nursing ’15) is a civilian nurse practitioner in Washington, D.C. She served at Bagram Air Base in 2011 as a U.S. Air Force Flight Nurse. Long’s heart for service was generational. Her father was in the military, and she wanted to make her contribution to veterans, like her father, the best she could. Long described the importance of signing the flag as “common ground.” A shared pride of having attended TTUHSC.

Among the flag’s travels was a stop with retired Maj. Terry Winnett, BSN, RN, (Nursing ’97) who served tours at Bagram in 2008 and 2010. He learned about the flag from Lozada, who posted about it on a private Facebook page, U.S. Air Force Air Evac Alumni.

The flag held significance for Winnett, a nurse who served in that combat zone evacuating wounded service members. “We all were about the mission and took pride in what we did.”

Serving in the military was a childhood dream turned reality for Maj. Jeree Milam (Nursing ’12), who is stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Fueled by what the uniform stood for and knowing the world was hurting for nurses on the civilian side, she asked herself, “What about the military side?” So, marking her name was twofold. She credits TTUHSC for where she is today because of the opportunity it gave her. Likewise, she recognizes the military for placing her in Afghanistan from 2019 to 2020 – an experience she would’ve never had if she hadn’t joined. To her, it’s a privilege to be in the military, Milam said.

Spindel describes the School of Nursing as a collaborative partner in tune with military service. So, as the U.S.’s 20-year campaign in Afghanistan ended, it was essential to recognize TTUHSC graduates who served, were injured and gave their lives during this mission, Spindel said. Handing the flag over to the School of Nursing was then a way to “come full circle and close that chapter.”

This honorary Texas Tech flag is now framed, displayed for public viewing in the University Center lobby on the Lubbock campus as thanks to these and the many other TTUHSC alumni who continue to serve. – Alessandra Singh