Remembering all who have fallen since 9/11



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FORT HUACHUCA — On Sept. 11, 2001, Brown Parade Field on this southern Arizona Army Post was scene for a morning change-of-command ceremony where Maj. Gen. John Thomas handed off the reins of the Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca to Brig. Gen. James Mark.

The ceremony was cut short as news reached the western United States of terrorist attacks in the eastern portion of the country putting the nation on a war footing.

Wednesday, at a late afternoon Sept. 11th Remembrance Ceremony of a dozen years of continuing conflict was held on the same parade field, at which the center’s and the fort’s current commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, noted the thousands who died in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a Pennsylvania field have been joined by thousands more of America’s armed forces deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“We remember not only the 3,000 civilians and first responders who lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11, but the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Department of Defense and national agency employees who have fallen in the last 12 years in the fight against terrorism,” Ashley said.

He spoke under sunny skies, as white clouds drifted overhead occasionally casting shadows on the several hundred people who attended the short ceremony.

As the people gathered The 62nd Army Band, also know as the Military Intelligence Corps Band, played a number of hymns and at appropriate places during the event played the National Anthem, had two trumpeters sound echo “Taps” and at the end, as the audience left, played a series of patriotic songs.

Members of the fort’s Select Honor Guard and other service members carried the national colors and the flags of the various military services and its firing party provided a 21-rifle salute.

But, it was Ashley’s speech which said set the verbal tone of the ceremony.

“For over a decade our nation’s finest have bravely answered the call of duty, at home and overseas. Their efforts to preserve our freedoms and our way of life have come with a heavy price,” the general said.

From those sacrifices, knowing full well they would be asked to go into harms’ way the nation can draw inspiration, Ashely said, adding, “The post 9-11 military generation is as great as any this nation has produced.”

The burden by America’s armed forces, the men and women who deployed, was shared by their families have with those who deployed “endured the painful recoveries from physical, mental and emotional wounds of war … many of our military families have painfully laid their loved ones to rest,” just as those of the victims who died in the terrorist attacks in 2001, he said.

The attacks 12 years ago revealed the best in the American people, leading many in the world to declare themselves as being Americans in their hearts because of the attacks, the general said.

The al Qaida terrorists who plotted the attacks misread America as nothing more than a paper tiger who would not respond, Ashley said.

“Needless to say al Qaida failed to study history,” he said, noting after the 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii the Japanese admiral who planned the attack said he was afraid all it did was to awake a sleeping giant.

“Terrorist networks get to re-learn that history lesson time and time again.,” Ashley said.

Since that day in 2001, “thousands al Qaida operatives have been killed or captured, entire networks have been dismantled and dozen of plots to attack Americans in their homeland have been foiled,” the general said.

And, while it took some time, nearly a decade after 9/11, the al Qaida mastermind had American justice served on him, the general said.

It was President George Bush who set the tone for the nation’s response when on the day of the attack, in a national speech to the country, he said while terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, they cannot touch the foundation of the nation, the general said.

On that day a dozen years ago it was the military and civilian first responders, who responded and still do so today, he said.

“So again let us remember and let us renew our commitment to the 320 million Americans who depend on us each day to defend this great nation We will not fail them” Ashley said.

He and the Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Fairley, along with Sgt. 1st Class Michael Dawley, of Company E, 309th Military Intelligence Battalion, carried a wreath to a stand and placed it on it.

The end of the ceremony was the traditional lowering of the U.S. flag, which was flying at half-staff in front of the audience. First it was quickly raised to full staff and lowered slowly to be folded for the night.

But today, it is flying at full staff again, symbolizing an undefeated nation.