Eddie De Santiago, back, a medical assistant at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center and U.S. Army veteran, helps raise a flag flown over Afghanistan at the hospital on Memorial Day. He gave the flag to the hospital to honor military members who died in the line of duty and to thank medical center leaders for keeping employees and patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo.

An American flag flies at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center as a thank-you from a veteran to the administration for efforts protecting staff and patients from COVID-19.

Hospital medical assistant and U.S. Army veteran Eddie De Santiago flew the flag and five others over Afghanistan during his last deployment in 2011, when he served as an infantry non-commissioned officer. He had given the other five flags to supporters, but still had the sixth.

On Memorial Day, he gave that last flag to SRMC and helped raise it in front of the building.

I thought this would be a good way to honor our brothers and sisters who have passed on deployment, and it would be a good gift for the hospital,” De Santiago said.

He said the leaders at the hospital have done everything possible to keep the novel coronavirus from spreading in the facility.

I really feel our leadership has done a good job of taking care of not only us, but our patients as well,” he said.

De Santiago was told the hospital would fly the flag on Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day, and it would be kept inside otherwise.

First and foremost, I want to thank Eddie for his service to our country,” said hospital CEO Jamie Silva-Steele. “I am humbled that he would donate this special flag to SRMC, and want to express my sincere appreciation, on behalf of the organization, that he would honor SRMC in this way. We will fly his flag with gratitude and pride as we remember all of those who have served and died for our country and freedom.”