I was serving in the military on 9/11
Nineteen years ago on 9/11/2001, I was the Operations Officer in a Marine Artillery Battalion at Camp Lejeune, NC. I remember feeling two things that day. First, as a father of three boys who were 6, 5, and 1-year-old at the time, I felt scared — scared for them and scared for millions of families like ours. Second, I felt helpless — helpless as I stood next to several other Marines watching first responders in NYC and at the Pentagon fight the fires and the chaos — and helpless as I watched and learned about so many of them losing their lives in the line of duty. I felt scared and helpless because there was nothing I could do at that moment.
On September 10th and 11th last year, I was given the opportunity to do something that I couldn’t do 19 years ago — honor the service of thousands of First Responders in Washington DC, New York City, Arlington VA, and Shanksville, PA, as well as every Firefighter and EMT at the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, the agency with the two foam trucks that extinguished the fires at the Pentagon. I actually shook hands and looked in the eyes of firefighters who fought tirelessly to save lives and who stood on the roof of the Pentagon that fateful day. They continue to serve their communities and to honor the memories of their fallen brothers and sisters. I stood alongside Army Veteran Jenine Melton — daughter to Gold Star Mom, Janice Chance, and sister to Marine Corps Captain, Jesse Melton, who was killed in action that very day 12 years ago on September 9, 2008, in Afghanistan. I met Captain Justin Tirelli from Arlington County Fire Department who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. As a “rookie,” it was the first time he drove the ladder truck. Their station was one of the first to respond and they were repelled several times by the intensity of the flames but never gave up. I also spent a few hours with Assistant Chief Steve Gervis from Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority who recalled that day 19 years ago as a young firefighter on the rooftop of the Pentagon. I remember that day no longer feeling scared and helpless. I was filled with joy and hope.
I pledge to always remember the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by actively serving those who serve. We must never forget, and we must honor the memories of the fallen by doing everything we can to bridge divides and unite communities and our nation.
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