Flag Flown in Syria Finds Home at UVA
A flag flown during Maj. Megan Matters' (DNP `16) Special Operations mission in Syria has been sent to UVA. The critical care nurse deployed to Raqqah in 2016.

It's tradition to have an American flag present and part of every military operation. Whether neatly folded and tucked in a Air Force cockpit compartment, hung from the interior of a Blackhawk helicopter, displayed on the exterior of an armored vehicle, or hoisted into the breeze atop a Navy ship, the flag provides a metaphoric and physical reminder of service members' connection to freedom, purpose, history, and all the brave men and women who currently serve, and served before.

"I am a proud Wahoo and wanted to send my support back and say thank you for all I learned to prepare me for this mission back at UVA."

Maj. Megan Matters, enroute critical care nurse, DNP `16

UVA School of Nursing was honored, then, to receive a flag from Maj. Megan Matters (DNP `16), a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) enroute critical care nurse who deployed to Syria after graduating from UVA School of Nursing's Doctor of Nursing Practice program two years ago.

"I have had the unique opportunity to support the Special Operations Joint Task Force as a member of Dustoff," wrote Matters to prof. Richard Westphal, who received the package from Matters, and who serves as chair of the Family, Community and Mental Health Systems department, is a retired Navy captain and former manager of the Navy and Marine Corps' Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Programs.

Matters also wrote that her mission "moved coalition forces, blood, and patients during a busy time in Raqqah. The outcomes were positive for everyone involved."

For Westphal, the flag, certificate and Matters' letter - which will be displayed in the Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry - offers a poignant reminder of the many nurses who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

"There are very, very few days between our military nurses' graduation day and their deployment," notes Westphal. "During Veteran's Day Week, Megan's letter and this flag reminds us that while we're safe and comfortable at home, anticipating Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, there are brave men and women - many of them nurses - who are supporting us silently, and steadfastly. I'm honored to have this flag, as we all are."

For Matters' part, UVA School of Nursing is a fitting final home for the flag flown in Syria where civil war has brutalized its people for the last seven years, killing more than 350,000, displacing millions, and causing a humanitarian crisis that's carried into Europe and beyond.

"I am a proud Wahoo and wanted to send my support back and say thank you for all I learned to prepare me for this mission back at UVA," she said.

"Let it be known," states the certificate, "that this flag was flown on a combat medevac mission in an HH-60M Blackhawk Helicopter into firebase Raqqah in support of a special operations joint task force and Operation Inherent Resolve."

The certificate also notes that the flag was flown in memory of "brave men and women who gave their lives in support of our freedom."