Posts Tagged ‘remembrance’

This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the day that forever changed the fabric of our nation.  The 9/11 attacks which killed 2,977 people touched the lives of every American.  While I personally did not know anyone who was a victim of the attacks, I spent the next 13 years experiencing the further effects of that day.  Prior to 9/11, it had been many years since I had seen the towers, even though I grew up seeing them on a very regular basis, from the New Jersey side, with the Statue of Liberty in clear profile with them.  The only time I have seen the area since has been from an airplane taking off or landing at Newark International Airport while heading out TDY somewhere for the Army.

My sister-in-law, whom I did not know at that period in time, lovingly changes her Facebook profile photo each year to that of her dear friend from school, Tonyell McDay, who lost her young life during those senseless attacks.  While I do not know anyone personally who died, everyone I know from that day forward either lost someone on 9/11 or during combat action in the years following.  9/11 is not a day that requires anyone to go more than two or three degrees of separation in order to connect any individual to someone directly affected.

In the days, weeks, months, and, early years after that day, there was a loud call from the citizens of this great country to come together in support of the survivors, the friends and families, as well as the recovery efforts in the time that followed.  Patriotism became a unifying banner across the nation as we identified the perpetrators of this horrific attack and began to take action to avenge the fallen.  As the days unfolded, we as a country experienced Patriotism in the truest sense of the word; it encompassed empathy and compassion for our Nation and those directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, and, in the sense of pride in our Armed Forces as we moved off to war to avenge this senseless attack.

In subsequent years that all-too-real, yet indefinable feeling has waned.  Not for the victims of the attacks or remembrance of the attacks themselves, but for the idea that is this great country as a whole.  For a very short period of time of the last decade and a half, the nation stood as what I can only imagine the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the concept of what this nation should be.

Instead of building and improving upon that brief moment, we have let it slip us by, and we have squandered an opportunity born of tragedy.  I have been fortunate enough to witness the rise of some truly great leaders, both in the military and civilian world.  I speak of people capable of transformation, advancement and vision, yet, it does not seem as if it is possible for them to rise to the point, either from circumstance or personal belief, that they can move to the position where they can truly influence this nation on a different path; a path that will take us away from being a country that can only seem to come together as a result of tragedy rather than as a way of life.

As we draw closer to the 15th anniversary of this infamous day, we are being sucked further into the circus that is our run-up the the Presidential election, and I have to say that it is a bitter disappointment that we, as a nation, can only present to the world a shallow pool of candidates as a representation of a nation which at one time stood together in solidarity in the aftermath of tragedy.  Today we stand fractured with the narrative in control of a two-party system and a media which refuses to recognize that there are viable candidates beyond this crop of weeds that presents itself as a garden.

Patriotism is a feeling, an ideal, an intangible that means something different to everyone but has a common thread that runs through it which evokes a passion and emotion particular to each individual.  Unfortunately, in its inability to be defined, patriotism is  susceptible to the vitriolic narratives of party candidates, presented in a never-ending stream of sound bites to a gullible public by news outlets on a 24 hour loop.  We as Americans, are responsible for this because we are willing to accept what has been placed before us as our only options, latching on to the buzzwords which speak to the issues we see as personal to us, rather than demanding the service required by their offices they hope to achieve instead of leadership and service.

This Sunday we should reflect and remember, and pray if that is what you need.  As we do so, do not do it just for those we lost on that day.  Also do it for what we have lost since then, that brief period when we as individuals came together as one, regardless of the differences we possessed or the beliefs we harbored.  Open your heart and soul, clear your mind and really try to get in touch with that day and the emotions it evoked.  When you wake up Monday morning and get ready to start your week, as you read your paper, watch the news or listen to the radio, think about your reflection from the day before and ask yourself if this is the best we can do, are these people who are pushing our buttons to try and draw us to their side, the best we can do or is it okay to settle because they are all their is?  If you are even remotely capable of capturing a small part of what you felt on September 11th, 2001, then you will probably say that we are headed for disappointment instead of greatness, stagnation rather than excellence.

Remember our fallen and those who still suffer from that day and all the days since.  They deserve better from us, they deserve the us that rose from the ashes in the aftermath, not the us we have allowed ourselves to become.

BTAR

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I have been struggling this last year to write anything of worth.  I just do not seem to have it in me since I went out on retirement leave last October to put thoughts to words.  Writing my annual 9/11 piece seems to be just as difficult a process as anything else I have to to put down over the last few months.  Do not get me wrong, the thoughts are there in my head, the act of getting them down has been failing though.

In my first year of civilian life I had hoped to write this one with just a little bit different perspective to influence my words.  After all I started this whole thing three, almost four, years ago to help clear the anger out of my head and do something a little more constructive with my limited creative side than simply allowing dark thoughts to take up space and fester in my head.  At the end of the day, if it were not for 9/11 and all that has changed because of that day I do not think I would have entered this medium as a form of therapy.  Chances are good I would have never realized that I needed some sort of outlet and like many other Americans would have lived a much different life.

Something I have come to realize in the 14 years since the attacks is that we not only need to remember what happened that day and those we lost, we need to also remember the person we were prior to that day as well.  We all changed, for some it was a significant change, while for others it was hardly noticeable. Some of us in the ensuing years have come to realize the type of person we really were, while others, too many others, have become lost in themselves and barely resemble the who that they were before the attacks.

Many, too many, of my Brothers and Sisters have chosen to end their story long before the last chapter is written.  It is commonly accepted that 22 Veterans per day end their lives.  22 souls who could no longer wander, trying to get back to who they were or come to grips with their experiences but were unable to.  It may be that for some, they either could not remember the events that led to their experiences nor the thoughts and reasons why they took those steps in the days and years after.  It is possible for many it is the polar opposite, they remember all too well how they were changed that day and forever are tied to their actions in the ensuing years, unable to make a break away from their personal changes or simply unable to accept them.

9/11 changed many things for many people.  Some of us stayed at war until we left the service; for many they remain at war even though they are a long way away from their days in combat.  The country latched on to a short-term, intense patriotism, supporting revenge, justice, vengeance or any other adjective to describe what has continued as a conflict without end.  I do not blame anyone for this, we all lost someone or something of ourselves that day and America is known as a nation you do want to have to defend your backyard from.  We need to remember that day because it is the day we all moved as a nation, from who we were to who we are now.

The lives of our current and future generations was radically altered in the days since 9/11.  After the initial closeness and drawing together, we have exploded outward and become polarizing and extreme.  The thing that initially brought us together in our grief, morning and collective desire for vengeance has also shattered our old way of life, turning it into something almost unrecognizable at times.  We always disagreed, but eventually there was some form of compromise for the country.  Now there is a hostile polarity from which compromise is only reached from a position of dominance and for the good of the party.  The ignorant have a greater voice than the wise, who are often labeled in the antithesis of what is considered an American.  People who believe everyone should have a fair shake at accessing anything as anyone are called socialist while people who would have you believe the belief system is the only way and it is how we should be governed are totally ignorant of the fact that is the same philosophy as those who decided to attack us that day.

We do need to remember.  The many lives lost.  The friends and families of those lost.  Those who witnessed the acts live or on television.  The heroes who lost their lives moving to the destruction to help others to live.  The passengers who chose a farmers field rather than to be used as a fourth weapon of destruction.

Most of all we all need to remember who we were before that day, individually and collectively.  We may not have been any better people than we are today, but we are all radically altered in the years that have followed.  Just a couple of months after the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 next year we will be choosing the next leader of the country.  We need to decide whether we want to continue the cycles and dynasties that we have allowed or if we want to try something new and see where it goes.

Remember the events of 9/11 and the people we lost that day and in years since.  History will judge our actions since then as a nation and whether that pivotal event portended our downfall or our ascension.  Patriots Day is a day of reflection brought about by noble actions in response to a most ignoble event.  Take a moment in your busy day today and think about that day, the memory is yours, reflection is good.  Time may close some wounds but it does not mean they are healed.

This is my last Patriots Day in uniform.  13 years ago I was a 31 year old Buck Sergeant preparing to go to his first foreign country to help train them in peace keeping operations when the fabric of the world I had known was ripped apart.  As we were packing our kit to depart in two days terrorists took it upon themselves to bring us to war.  Ten days later we eventually left on our mission while my brothers and sisters in arms were packing for the unknown.  I did not deploy to either invasion, but I did eventually make it to both Iraq and Afghanistan for close to five years total time deployed.

I have been blessed over the years to know some very special people.  Some of them have given the last full measure, some are continuing to serve and all too many of them are stuck in a ground in between.  They gave what they had and have been unable to adjust and are lost, looking for a way to come back or to just find some measure of peace for themselves.  9/11 remembrances often consist of memorial and dedications to the 2993 souls who lost their lives that day and that is rightful thing to do.  2993 innocent and unsuspecting people paid the ultimate price for simply being a citizen of the United States or having the misfortune of being at the location when the attacks happened.

9/11 for me is not simply about those people and their families.  Casualties from that day have continued to pile up in lives lost and scars visible and hidden.  Environmental effects from the Towers continue to plague emergency responders and volunteers all these years later.  Iraq saw 4486 of my comrades in arms give their lives in service by the time we pulled out in 2011, as well as countless thousands who still suffer physical and emotional traumas as a result of their service there.  Afghanistan has seen an additional 2344 killed in action to date and thousands more with physical and emotional trauma to date, and we have been there longer with still more to go.  Those attacks that day have continued and will continue to take and radically affect the lives of Americans in and out of uniform.  In this regard, Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda have exceed well beyond their expectations.

We as Americans have drawn a distinction between the casualties of that fateful day and our subsequent losses in the years since.  I think this is a mistake on our part.  The events that day and those in the years to follow and the years to come are indelibly tied together and each loss we continue to suffer is directly attributable to 9/11 2001.  Opinions on how much or little justification we had for invading Iraq on top of our assembled coalition hostilities in Afghanistan mean very little when the truths are not truths for the sake of being truthful but political machinations intended to sway a quorum.

Thirteen years of war has changed us as a country.  Thirteen years of remembrance reminds of of what our country is supposed to be.  We now have one tower where two used to stand and we have a country with multiple divisions where we once came together for the common good, saw beyond the horror of the scenes before us to look into our own hearts and extend our hands to those who desperately needed.

This last year is bittersweet.  Almost half my life has been in uniform, it has been my identity and provided me the optic that I have been able to view the events of these last years through.  Sometimes that vision has been with sparkling clarity and magnified view and all too many other times I have had to dry the moisture off it to see beyond my own sorrow.  I do not look upon Patriots Day as a holiday but one of remembrance and reverence.  I give one final salute and take my moments of reflection for those who have given their lives, those who have moved on as best they can and those who will never be able to.

Rest in Peace whose souls have flown

9/11/2001

Never Forget

 

     Flag_Pass

Today we remember those who came before us, who laid down their lives, suffered at the hands of our enemies, became permanently scarred, physically and psychologically, and lived the history of our nation.  Brave men and women have given their all in pursuit of the freedoms we hold dear, or, choose to take for granted; for that is our right as Americans, to choose.  For that we have our veterans to thank.

It is your choice, your freedom, you inalienable right to be an American as you see fit.  That choice is granted by the sacrifice in blood, pain, tears, and loss of those who run to the sounds of battle while others choose to stay away.  We serve at your leisure but that leisure is only available through the actions of others.  Freedom does not live in a vacuum; each and every day someone pays the cost for it and it is with their dying breath that millions more get to live the life they choose.

Veterans do so with a clarity of vision for vaguely defined strategic objectives.  Decisions are made and acted upon that have impacts far beyond the battlefield in which they are enacted.  Heroes come at unexpected times, immortalized at the moment of their action.  Most often they are eulogized and memorialized.

Today we remember.  Those of us who have known the loss first hand remember our comrades at arms who have paid the ultimate price.  Today is the most somber of veterans remembrance days during the year.  When it was Armistice Day, it was intended to be.  It is not a day of celebrating, it is a day of remembrance and reflection.  It is a day to wear the buddy poppy in remembrance of someone you knew who served or in recognition of a nameless individual who sacrificed their all so that you can have what you do.

I am rapidly closing in on 20 years of service.  It has not always been easy, fun, or even at times, something I wanted to do.  My family has paid as much of a price if not more so than I.  As I close out my time I hope that I have enough for them.  I admire the respect they show during the National Anthem, memorial services, and to other veterans and their families and I know, deep in my heart that this is what I have served for all these years.  The personal challenges and sacrifices are great obstacles to overcome and achievements to acknowledge for my own self-interests, but it is seeing the pride my my children’s eyes when they speak of what I do and it is in having the most loving, supporting Army wife possible.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month has passed.  Gone is the Day.  If not the person, remember the sacrifice.

9/11 Flag of Honor hung in the hallway at my daughters school. The names of all those who died are contained within the flag.

As we move on towards Memorial Day this coming Monday, it will be easy to forget the reason we (most of us anyhow) have the day off.  As we get ready to attend or host a BBQ the memorial part of Memorial Day can sometimes slip by the wayside.  It is very understandable, things, especially ideals, get lost in the shuffle.  It is not a crime, it is just something that happens.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer with the opening of public pools, the first nicest weather (fingers crossed) to start hosting BBQs and parties, the beaches begin to become a little bit more attractive, hemlines get just a tinsey bit higher and Southern women can again begin to wear white shoes.  All of these things would still be possible even without Memorial Day, it is not like the weather or seasons are going to change just because there is a National holiday.

The Federal government has seen fit however to give us a moment, a day really, on which to reflect before we begin the 100 or so days of summer and all that entails.  That moment of reflection is significant as it is predicated on people taking the time to appreciate the sacrifices made in order for us to remain a free country and give our citizens the ability to enjoy the coming days as they see fit.

For many folks it can be amongst the most painful of times, they are the family survivors of someone who has paid the ultimate price.  They will have constant reminders as they see numerous parades in honor of veterans throughout the country, Old Glory lowered to half-staff, motorcycle poker runs with flags flapping in the breeze behind them, and the loud music and boisterous partying of their friends and neighbors who have probably not felt the loss as they have.

Major League Baseball, each and every Memorial Day stops play at 3:00 PM and holds a moment of remembrance.  The Homeplate Umpire steps forward and removes his mask signifying the moment, regardless of inning.  Baseball has always been one of the most patriotic of sports, the players across the league each year sending messages to the troops deployed downrange and hosting veterans and their families in very special ways.  Satellite radios Octane channel will stop music and play TAPS at noon on Monday.  Various other museums and memorial locations will also host their unique tributes to veterans and their families during the day.

At some point this weekend as the frivolity goes on, take a moment at any time, stop what is going on and call for just a moment of silence in the festivities.  At the end if the environment is conducive, raise a glass and have a shot.  Play the video for TAPS that I am including here:

Whatever your flavor may be it is still possible today thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of veterans and their families.  Here is one I have heard too many times through the years at memorials and funerals for the following.  I happen to like this one as it includes police officers as well as the military.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Mark