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Re-enlisting, with a 'Roll Tide'-flag salute
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on the Unknown Soldiers: Roll Tide

 Jason Cartwright (right) is congratulated by Jeremy Carroll after re-enlisting.
Courtesy of Jason Cartwright
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Date published: 3/21/2013


--If you take a drive through the Deep South, you are virtually guaranteed to see numerous University of Alabama flags flying from houses and cars.

Yet few Crimson Tide flags hold the significance of the one Sgt. Jason Cartwright carries in the right cargo pocket of his U.S. Army uniform in Afghanistan. For the soldier, who arrived in the war zone over the summer with his trusted military working dog, the Alabama flag is a reminder of a close friend, U.S. Army Spc. Dusty "Doc" Parrish.

"If you knew Doc, no matter what kind of day, he would [put] a smile on your face," Sgt. Cartwright, 28, wrote to The Unknown Soldiers from Afghanistan. "Doc and I were roommates, both from Alabama, and both big Alabama fans."

While serving in Iraq with the Army's 5th Engineer Battalion, based out of Missouri's Fort Leonard Wood, Cartwright and his fellow soldiers held Parrish in the highest regard.

"We were in the same vehicle," Cartwright wrote. "I was his gunner and he was our medic."

On June 4, 2009, Spc. Parrish, 23, was killed in Balad, Iraq, when his vehicle was struck by an armor-piercing grenade. The loss of Parrish, who left behind a wife and son, devastated the soldier's hometown of Jasper, Ala., as well as Cartwright and his entire unit.

"We were real close friends to Doc," Cartwright wrote.

Nearing the end of his third combat deployment and the second hunting for roadside bombs with his dog, Cartwright carries not only the Alabama flag that once flew in the room he shared with Parrish, but also his fallen comrade's courageous spirit.

"[Through] all my deployments and being here in Afghanistan now, I still want to serve this great country," Cartwright wrote.

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