KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Soldiers from 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division stationed at Forward Operating Base Walton commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a ceremony to reflect on and remember the fallen heroes of that ill-fated day.
“These guys deserve it,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Tuten, command sergeant major for 204th BSB. “They were fighting on the front lines that day and this is just our way to say thanks and remember them.”
In the early morning hours of Sept. 11 more than 200 American flags were raised over FOB Walton. The flags came from different organizations around the United States. Each flag was raised and saluted and will be sent back to each organization with a certificate explaining that the flag was flown in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2011, over the FOB.
“It’s a little token of our appreciation for those organizations that continue to support us while we are over here,” Tuten said.
After the flags were raised and put away, Rough Rider soldiers started their day of remembrance with a 9.11K ruck march. The march started near the flag poles and ended where the ceremony was to be held.
The ceremony area was surrounded by American flag decorations, and two tactical armored vehicles were the backdrop to the podium. Rows of chairs ran alongside two tables that displayed the names of some of the organizations and the flags that were flown.
Also on display was a sculpture that paid tribute to the soldiers, firefighters and police officers who lost their lives on 9/11. The sculpture was made by 204th soldiers at the request of their Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Todd Bertulis, and will be sent to the World Trade Center Tribute Center.
“Today I ask you all to reflect and keep in mind those parents, siblings, children, spouses and friends who were lost 10 years ago today,” Bertulis said. “In addition to the fallen on 9/11, we also cannot forget those we’ve lost since then—those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Bertulis went on to mention former Rough Rider 2nd Lt. Emily Perez, a West Point graduate from the class of 2002, the class first to graduate after 9/11, who lost her life in Sept. 2006 in Iraq. He also mentioned many current Rough Rider soldiers who joined the Army after 9/11 and shared with the audience their stories. He then shifted the focus of his speech back to the NYC firefighters and police officers.
“In the weeks, months and years following 9/11 a unique bond was built between police and firefighters and the U.S. Army. Many police and firefighters joined military branches and today we continue to be united in the service and protection of Americans both home and abroad,” he said.
In his closing remarks he addressed his soldiers, “Rough Riders, you all embody this concept of selfless service that is the hallmark of our Army. I want you all to know that you inspire me. You are a part of the beacon of hope that shines for the whole world to see.”
No great ceremony is complete without an inspiring guest speaker. James Brengel, who is currently a DynCorp electrical contractor, worked for the city of New York as an electrician during the attacks of 9/11.
Brengel was on his way downtown to pull fiber optic cable when the first plane hit the Twin Towers, he said. “I saw what I thought was the worst airline accident New York City had ever seen.”
“Twenty minutes after that I knew it was no accident,” he added. “After the confusion and chaos settled down, everyone wanted to help. And they did -- construction workers, city employees, and just your average person all wanted to do their part no matter how big or how small.”
He proceeded to tell the audience of a tradition that was started nine years ago.
“At every construction site in New York City at 8:46 a.m. the electrician turns off the lights and power, and everyone puts their tools down and it’s silent; 8:46 a.m. was the time the first plane hit the tower,” he said.
Brengel continued, “At 9:05 a.m. they go off again and the job is silent. That’s the time the plane hit the second tower. After that we pick up our tools and keep building because that’s just the way it is in New York City.”
When the ceremony was over the soldiers took time to observe the flags, enjoy the sculpture and remember the fallen.
“I hope the events of the day will help my soldiers understand the important role they play and why we are here,” Tuten said. “It’s important that they understand everyday when they get up and put on that uniform that this is the reason we are here.”
This work, 204th BSB pays tribute the fallen of 9/11, by SGT April York, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.