When Michael Barany graduated from Army basic training in 2006, his grandfather gave him an American flag. It never left his side.
Not when he was in training.
Not when he was deployed twice to Iraq.
And not since he was discharged from the Army, came to Middlesex County College, graduated and then earned a Bachelor’s Degree at New Jersey City University. He is now going for his doctorate.
“That flag went everywhere with me,” he said. “When I was deployed, the flag served as a shield during a sandstorm, and a poncho during the rain.”
He did reconnaissance and surveillance and would be out two or three weeks at a time.
“We’d nail the flag onto the roof so helicopters flying overhead would know we were friendly,” Mr. Barany said.
Since leaving the military, the flag stayed with him always.
At the Middlesex County College program commemorating 9/11, Mr. Barany donated the flag to the College.
“When I left the Army in 2011, I was lost,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for this school and its Veterans Services Center, I don’t know where I would be. I owe all my success to them.”
Mr. Barany is currently the assistant in the Veterans Services Center, helping student veterans every day.
“It’s my way of giving back,” he said.
Mark McCormick, MCC’s interim president, said the flag will be prominently displayed at the College.
“I was really touched and honored that Michael donated something that means so much to him,” Dr. McCormick said. “It is so gratifying to see those who served come back and continue to serve others as civilians.”
The annual 9/11 program at the College included a keynote speech from Ronald G. Rios, freeholder director, who thanked the veterans for their service and urged those in the audience to help their fellow citizens by performing acts of service on this anniversary day.
It also included a flag raising by student veterans Natalia Thomas, Cristina Reyes and Samantha Cruz, the honor guard of VFW Post 2319 from Milltown, the President’s Proclamation read by Eun Lee, president of the MCC Veterans and Servicemembers Association, and a 9/11 poem, read by student veteran Marcel Butts.