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U.S. Honor Flag arrives in N.J. for funeral of Mount Arlington officer

Photo Credit: Morris County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Morris County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Morris County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Morris County Prosecutor
Photo Credit: Morris County Prosecutor

CLIFFVIEW PILOT INSIDE STORY: A flag that once flew over the rubble at Ground Zero, and in Iraq, Afghanistan and outer space, arrived at Newark Airport this morning for Friday’s funeral of Mount Arlington Police Officer Joseph Wargo. A sealed case containing the flag was then given an official police escort to Fair Lawn police headquarters.

Fair Lawn Lt. Robert Kneer with U.S. Honor Flag at Newark Airport (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo / No re-use without hyperlink)

Fair Lawn Lt. Robert Kneer, the New Jersey Honor Guard commander, was met by the captain, first officer and flight attendants at Gate 32A soon after American Airlines Flight 1590 from Texas touched down around 11:15 this morning.

Members of the U.S. Honor Guard attended, as Kneer accepted the flag’s special case, which flew next to the captain on the commuter flight.

Kneer, using a special code, opened the case, took out a device from inside and scanned one of two microchips embedded in the U.S. Honor Flag, which confirmed receipt.

The chips also can be used in case the flag is ever stolen.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo / No re-use without hyperlink

With an escort from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police, the contingent marched out to a waiting Fair Lawn cruiser for the ride north.

The flag will remain at borough headquarters until Friday morning, when Lt. Kneer will bring it to the funeral in Phillipsburg. It will then remain at the right side of Wargo’s family during the funeral service and, later, at the gravesite in the nearby borough of Alpha, nearly 40 miles from Mount Arlington.

The 10-year veteran was killed before dawn Sunday when a car swerved across a Route 80 median and smashed his police cruiser. The driver, who police said may have been texting while under the influence of methadone, faces a host of charges.

The U.S. Honor Flag , which most recently flew on the shuttle Atlantis’ final mission, has been brought to funerals nationwide of soldiers, firefighters and police officers.

“It represents the selfless service the badge recognizes and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Chris Heisler, president and CEO of The Honor Network, which transports the flag.

Mt. Arlington Officer Joseph Wargo (COURTESY Morris County Prosecutor)

The Texas House of Representatives gave Heisler the flag. He then organized one of the longest police motorcades in U.S. history, bringing it to Manhattan, where it hung from a beam during recovery operations. It has since made its way around the universe
‎– 267 airplanes. 1 space shuttle, more than 5 million miles.

Authorities said Michael Cassella was speeding west on Route 80, weaving in and out of traffic, early Sunday when he lost control of his Mitsubishi Lancer. It crossed the center median and plowed into Wargo’s marked radio car, they said.

Wargo, 38, was flown to Morristown Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m., authorities said.

Casella, who has four drug-related convictions on his record, is being held on $500,000. He could be sent to prison for up to 30 years if he is convicted of aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and speeding.

When not being used at funerals or on tour, it is stored at the Miami-Dade Police Department.

“The Honor Network was founded on the conviction that every person who is committed in service to our communities and country deserves the support of every single American, and that an increase in American patriotism is vital in keeping our great nation united,” Heisler said.

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