The Kenwood Press
News: 02/15/2018

Flag a special gift for Kenwood Fire Department

Alec Peters

group of men hold framed flag
From left: Kenwood Fire Chief Daren Bellach and Jack Ayers, a KFD volunteer and SFFD fireman, accept a U.S. flag from SFFD Lieutenant Matt Hutchinson and U.S. Army Ranger Keith Bach. Bach carried the flag with him on missions overseas and training in the United States. Photo by Alec Peters .

On Feb. 10, the day of the Kenwood Firemen’s Association’s annual crab feed, the department received a memorable visit from U.S. Army Ranger Keith Bach, along with a gift symbolizing solidarity among all first responders.

The gift was an American flag, but not just any flag. This Stars and Stripes is one that has traveled the world with Bach on special operations missions overseas. In addition, the one-of-a-kind flag accompanied Bach, 1st Sergeant of the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion, when he and other Rangers jumped into Normandy for the 73rd Anniversary of D-Day. The flag has also attended special operations training in the U.S.

Bach had been carrying the flag for his best friend Matt Hutchinson. The two met as Army Rangers back in 1998, while serving in 3rd Platoon Bravo Company, 2/75 Ranger Battalion.

Hutchinson is a San Francisco Fire Lieutenant assigned to Engine Company 7 in the Mission District. He was one of many firefighters from San Francisco who came to the Kenwood area in the morning of Oct. 9 to assist in battling the devastating wildfires.

The Kenwood Fire Department was homebase for 10 SFFD engines and 50 SFFD personnel, and provided food, shelter, and other amenities when there was no other help.

According to fellow San Francisco firefighter (and Kenwood volunteer) Jack Ayers, Hutchinson had planned to keep Bach’s flag as a gift, but after experiencing the generosity and camaraderie of the Kenwood Fire Department, he decided it would was better served hanging in the Kenwood firehouse. Bach was happy to oblige, moved by the firefighting experiences of SFFD and Kenwood Fire.

Bach and Hutchinson came to visit the Kenwood Fire Department in the days before the crab feed, and presented the flag that evening, Feb. 10, in a special ceremony.

“This is a humble opportunity to give back to the Kenwood community and support fire departments throughout the Sonoma Valley Region,” said Bach. “Since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a strong connection, bond, and friendship of our military with the firefighters, police officers, and all other first responders that were lost that day.”

Bach, 42, and still in active service, lives in Tacoma, Washington, with his wife and five children. He has had a distinguished and decorated military career since first joining the U.S. Army in 1998. Over his almost 20-year career, he has been deployed seven times, six to Afghanistan, one to Iraq. He has received numerous awards, including three Bronze Stars, three Meritorious Service Medals, 11 Army Accommodation Medals, and 15 Army Achievement Medals.

“I have been getting several thanks for what I do all weekend,” said Bach, “but at the end of the day I thank the Kenwood Fire Department and all the others that have truly given me an opportunity to walk in your shoes this week, hear your stories, and share something that allows me to see who the true heroes are.”

The flag is in a frame, along with a certificate that shows where it was carried overseas. Also included in the frame are two Ranger Challenge Coins, a picture of the 75th Regiment’s colors, a picture of the landing where Army Rangers scaled the Pointe Du Hoc cliffs during D-Day, and a photo of the cemetery at Normandy.

Kenwood Fire Chief Daren Bellach said he and his fellow firefighters were extremely gratified to receive this unique flag.

“For them to do this, it’s hard to express in words,” said Bellach. “It’s such an honor for our department. We will display it proudly.”