PHOENIX - Soldiers from the Arizona Army National Guard hiked up Piestewa Peak early this morning, the third highest peak in the greater Phoenix area, commemorating Sept. 11.
The hike honored the seven Arizona Guardsmen killed in action since the start of the conflicts overseas. It also marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as well as the memory of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks on that day.
“We stop and reflect on the events of 9/11, and spend time with family and fellow soldiers,” said 2nd Lt. Jordan Suter, a public affairs officer with the 123rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment and officer in charge of the 9/11 Piestewa Peak memorial hike. “We must remember who we are and why we’ve chosen our military career paths, and honor those who are no longer with us.”
More than 18 units represented by 156 soldiers took on the 1.2-mile hike. Seven of the soldiers carried photographs of Arizona Guardsmen killed in action to symbolize taking them on the hike that they could not do themselves.
“I miss him – miss him every day,” Capt. Brian Dudley said, recalling the loss of fellow soldier, Staff Sgt. Thomas Rabjohn, who was KIA Oct. 3, 2009. “I lost Tom, I lost a friend. But it is nice to remember all of the soldiers this way and reunite with some who are here today.”
Since 9/11, the Arizona National Guard has deployed more than 9,300 Guardsmen in support of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hike serves to sustain motivation as well as the memory of fallen comrades and the thousands who were killed on 9/11.
“September 11th was the worst tragedy of my lifetime,” said Spc. Justin Demko, an infantryman with Bravo Company, 1-158th Infantry Battalion. “I didn’t know anybody personally in the Twin Towers but it’s one of the reasons I am proud to serve, to fight back against those who committed these acts and to be here today to show it.”