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Platoon selling flag flown on Iraqi election day

BAGHDAD, Iraq—An enterprising U.S. soldier has offered up a unique item for auction on eBay—an American flag flown over his base the day Iraqis voted for the first time.

Sgt. Matt Howe, 24, of the Wisconsin National Guard First Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, says he's selling the flag to raise money to help pay for an Internet connection for his platoon.

"I bought the flag with my own money," Howe, whose unit is from Eau Claire, Wis., explained in an email Saturday. "We are paying a HEFTY price for an internet connection so I wanted to figure out a way to ease some of the burden."

The Internet generation is fighting this war and while the military provides some free Internet access to most units, families complain the soldiers often don't have enough time to send emails because there are so many soldiers who want to get online.

Howe's regiment, based in Eau Claire, Wis., arrived in Iraq two months ago, the first combat National Guard unit from Wisconsin deployed since World War II. The unit, stationed near Baghdad, is expected to be in Iraq another 10 months. That was just too long to spend without decent email access, according to the wife of one of the soldiers in Howe's unit.

"They just got email access in the bunker," said Jesse, who asked that only her first name be used because she's taking care of the three children, ages 6, 3 and 16 months by herself while her husband is deployed in Iraq. "It's been outstanding. He's gotten to see the kids on the Webcam. Before we couldn't do that."

The eBay listing shows a picture of Howe, a criminal justice student at Minneapolis' Brown College, dressed in desert camouflage holding a flag outstretched in front of him. Behind him is a plywood hut buffered by sand bags.

The ad is simple, explaining that this is an American flag flown over the platoon's base on election day, "the first EVER Iraqi Free Election."

Iraqis voted on Jan. 30 to elect a national parliament, which will chose a prime minister and write a constitution.

The listing offers a certificate of authenticity signed by Battalion Commander and the Command Sergeant Major of Task Force Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom III.

Iraq is a different war from the one Howe's father fought in Vietnam.

"I have a hard time correlating all this modern technology to what we had, but certainly we want as much communication as possible," said Warren Howe, who served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and says he and his wife get emails from their son about once a week. "I think they should have whatever they need over there."

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(The eBay site for the auction is http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3959827874)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ+FLAG

Iraq

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