Long before Fort Bragg Soldiers were dispatched to war in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Global War on Terrorism, there were the people who lost their lives on 9/11. Fort Bragg remembered the nearly 3,000 people who perished in terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, as well as to remember those who died when a hijacked plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
The Fort Bragg and XVIII Airborne Corps 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony was held at Hercules Fitness Center, at 9 a.m., Monday. It honored the service and sacrifice of service members and first responders since 9/11. Retired Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, former vice chief of staff of the Army, served as guest speaker. The ceremony included prayer, laying of wreaths by Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Fort Bragg and XVIII Abn. Corps, and by first responders. It also included a 21-gun salute, music from the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus and a moment of silence.
Additionally, vignettes of persons who died in the terrorist attacks were read, including one of Tom Burnett, a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in Pennsylvania, and of Welles Crowther, an investment banker who died in the World Trade Center after rescuing others.
“For the veterans, uniformed warriors, Families, civilians, and supporting teammates across the greater Fort Bragg area, we know the cost and sacrifice of serving a Nation at war. For 16 years, we’ve been constantly engaged, committed, and on point for our Nation, across the globe. Among us today are heroes who were on point from our entry in this war on terror in 2001, and have remained so to this day . . .
“Leaders from our Airborne and Special Operations Forces remain heavily committed as we gather here today to commemorate the moment foreign terrorists slaughtered over 3,000 innocent people as they began their day filled with hope, and an expectation of just another routine day at work,” said Allyn, who was then stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Townsend said that the ceremony was his first official event since his return from the Middle East.
Like Allyn, he, too, knows the cost and sacrifice of serving a Nation at war.
“This year, our Army will induct our first Soldier who wasn’t even alive on 9/11, so it’s been a long war.” explained Townsend. “You can’t get tired . . . you can rest when the war is over.”
Staff Sgt. Alejandro Vergara, XVIII Abn. Corps, said that as part of the Chaplains Corps, he remembers 9/11. For him, the ceremony seemed to hold special significance.
“It’s important to keep remembering those who passed away and our continued effort to stop this from happening again,” he said.
Lt. Jason Conaway, a Fort Bragg firefighter, said he wanted “to pay homage to all the 343 firemen who lost their lives that day.”
Michelle Mansfield, American Red Cross, attended the ceremony to support troops and to support the fallen, she said.
Kalli Ziegler, the spouse of a retired service member, became choked with emotion as the 82nd Abn. Div. Chorus sang the 9/11 tribute song, “Have You Forgotten” and Lee Greenwood’s patriotic song, “God Bless the USA.”
“I just have a heart for this,” Ziegler said.
Service members remain committed to defeating ISIS and to winning the war on terror.
Today’s battalion commanders were young lieutenants and even cadets on 9/11, Townsend said. The Army is in 140 countries, with over 179,000 Soldiers engaged to win the war on terror and to deter further aggression in multiple theaters day.
The war on terrorism remains an ongoing commitment.
“Our Nation need not have war fatigue. We need to have resolve,” Townsend said.