Seventeen years ago, my family was woken at 3 am Hawaii time when my father in-law called and said, “Turn on the TV now”! What we and the entire world witnessed that day was a cowardly attack on our nation that is now forever seared in our memories. Yesterday, as I reflected on the events of that horrible day the same raw emotions came flooding over me. Feelings of disbelief, sadness, loss and anger shook me just as they had 17 years ago. Watching the towers fall, seeing our Pentagon burn, hearing the bravery of those on flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, knowing of the horrendous loss of life and wondering, “Who could have done this to my country and our people”? I had no idea that fate one day have me serving our nation in the Pentagon. As the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau it was an honor to walk the halls, serve side by side our nation’s bravest and daily be reminded that the terrorists thought they had won that day…but they lost more than they could have imagined. Just as we did after Pearl Harbor, as we always do when faced with any crisis…as Americans we rallied to our flag and to each other. During my tour of duty, I would be blessed to attend the 9/11 ceremonies at the Pentagon. I want to share some of those pictures with you.
The flag is draped where flight 77 hit the Pentagon. I was privileged to spend special moments with family members who lost loved ones. Wreaths were laid on memorial benches at the Pentagon.
While serving at the Pentagon I had often walked the corridors that were once filled with fire and smoke, where military personnel and civilians alike risked their own lives for hours searching for injured friends and co-workers. Today, they are filled with memorial tributes to those who lost their lives that terrible day. In the chapel, the names of the fallen are displayed in honor and reverence and an American Flag is adorned with the names of the fallen is proudly displayed. Memories and emotions of 9/11 will always be with me, but today pride fills my heart. Pride for our nation as we took the fight to the terrorists. Pride for our first responders; but mostly for the men and women of our military who once again answered our nation’s call, and rode to the sound of the guns, with their loving families holding down the home front. Today the footage of 9/11 is seldom shown nor discussed. I often wonder if we as Americans have forgotten what true sacrifice looks like, what a true hero is and what national unity really means? Our first responders have not forgotten, our military and their families have not forgotten. For the sake of those who perished that day, for the sake of our nation and for the freedom God has blessed us with…WE MUST NEVER FORGET!