Remembering fallen heroes of 9/11, War on Terrorism
September 11, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- On the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans everywhere are attending ceremonies or tuning in to watch them on television. They are reflecting on where they were the moment they learned of the history-changing events. Many can recall being in school or at work with the same clarity of the death of a loved one or the birth of a child.
A free and open to the public ceremony was held at the main flag post here commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The event was hosted by Maj. Gen. James L. Huggins, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. The guest speaker was Gen. (Retired) Dan K. McNiell, a former commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, XVIII Airborne Corps, and U.S. Army Forces Command. McNiell retired from the Army after 40 years of military service.
"The last time I spoke on this spot, I was taking the uniform off after 40 years of service," McNiell said in his opening remarks. "I will begin today by humbly offering my prayers of peaceful repose for those who died violently on American soil."
"On the morning of 9/11," McNeill said, "I was with a stick of my Paratrooper colleagues on a brand new C-130"
They were waiting for the fog to clear as they prepared for an airborne operation on an experimental aircraft at Sicily Drop Zone.
McNeill recalled being informed by a civilian crew chief aboard the aircraft, "Sir, the flight deck wants you to know that an airplane has flown into one of the World Trade Towers."
The weather cleared and the operation continued as planned. McNeill continued, "When I reached the ground, the DZ (drop zone) safety officer came up to me said said 'Sir, Corps Headquarters wants you to know that an airplane has hit the World Trade Tower'." McNeill responded that he had heard already, and the safety officer informed him that another plane had struck the other tower.
McNeill, like many Americans who have served in the military, lost friends on September 11, 2001, and in the decade of war to follow.
There is no question that the life of nearly every American has been affected or changed. Many of them decided to join the Army, Marines Corps, Air Force, or Navy, despite the lack of an open call to arms or conscription remembered by veterans of America's past wars.
These individuals came to the military service knowing that their country was in an uncertain war, with an enemy that blended in with average citizens.
They came to the military knowing, not only would they have to deploy into harm's way, they would have to keep doing it again and again as the conflict progressed.
Those who stayed rose through the ranks over the years, becoming the first combat veterans of a prolonged war after decades of relative peace. Others left the military service, bringing their experiences with them into the civilian world.
Those who moved on to civilian life brought with them discipline, attention to detail, memories and camaraderie they may have never found in a typical college or "nine to five".
Still, brave men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts throughout the world to combat terrorism, and never came home.
Military service is often a thankless profession, rife with long hours of duty filled with a variety of mental and physical challenges. There is often little reward for a job well done, as it is expected of Soldiers, especially those in leadership positions.
The Paratroopers listed below who have served in the 82nd Airborne Division are among the most deserving of thanks from the American people.
They have given the ultimate sacrifice to their country and fellow Paratroopers. They have proven their bravery, and earned their awards.
Thanks is deserved for Paratroopers like Sgt. Charles Wyckoff from Chula Vista, California, an infantry team leader in Company C, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Afghanistan on June 6, 2007 during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Wyckoff left his covered position and drew attack onto himself from the enemy in order to protect members of his platoon. According to his award, "Wyckoff revealed his position and fatally engaged two insurgents to save the lives of his platoon."
Always remember Staff Sgt. Justin M. Estes from Sims, Arkansas, an infantry squad leader in Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Iraq on March 5, 2007 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Estes was on a mounted patrol in Iraq when a series of roadside bombs struck vehicles in his convoy. Despite the danger of more explosives in the area, or a complex ambush, he rushed to his fellow Paratroopers' sides to help carry them to safety. His courageous actions ultimately cost him his life. According to the narrative accompanying his Silver Star, "the imminent danger at which Staff Sgt. Estes had placed himself in order to save the lives of his comrades was realized, as he was engulfed in a cloud of smoke and debris as a secondary IED detonated directly underneath his feet, killing him instantly."
Always remember Pvt. Jerrod R. Dennis from Antlers, Oklahoma, an infantryman with the former 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan on April 25, 2003 during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Dennis was part of a quick reaction force trying to help friendly forces who had been ambushed in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. His vehicle had come under fire while he was trying to save a soldier from bleeding to death. Dennis climbed into the back of a civilian pickup along with Afghan forces and two American comrades. That truck was attacked by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades and spun out of control. He ignored his injuries and continued to fire at the enemy fighters, allowing others to escape. Dennis was finally mortally wounded in the firefight.
Always remember Staff Sgt. William C. Moore, from Benson, North Carolina, a troop section leader with Troop B, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Iraq on April 23, 2007 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Moore and his platoon had been engaged during several days of combat operations when his patrol base was attacked from multiple locations and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), ejecting him from the building he occupied. Ignoring his injuries, he led his fellow Paratroopers to establish defensive measures.
Realizing more Paratroopers remained trapped in the damaged building from which he was ejected, he ran to the building under heavy enemy fire to attempt to save their lives, where was mortally wounded after the building was struck by a second VBIED. He ignored his injuries still, and helped direct recue personnel to the injured Paratroopers' location while helping dig himself and others out of the destroyed building's rubble.
Always remember Sgt. Andrew Perkins from Lubbock, Texas, a team leader with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Iraq on March 5, 2007 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Perkins was part of a reconnaissance patrol near Samarra, Iraq when a vehicle in his convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device. His comrades in the vehicle were alive but engulfed in flames. Perkins retrieved fire blankets and a fire extinguisher and, without regard for his own safety, ran through the flames and exploding ammunition to attempt to save the lives of his comrades. After the fire extinguisher was expended, he ran to another vehicle to retrieve more blankets and returned to the intense heat. Perkins was killed trying to save the lives of his comrades by a secondary explosion.
Always remember Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin L. Sebban, from South Amboy, New Jersey, a senior medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions on March 17, 2007 during Operation Iraqi Freedome.
Sebban safeguarded the lives of 86 Paratroopers when he noticed a vehicle laden with explosives speeding toward their location. He yelled out to warn them but was stricken down when the vehicle exploded. Despite being mortally wounded, Sebban rushed to the aid station to help treat other injured Paratroopers. He ultimately succumbed to his injuries and collapsed while helping save the lives of others.
There are many other heroic Paratroopers across the 82nd Airborne Division, past and present. They carry on as living legends and continue to serve their country from inside and outside the military service.
"I think about those who selflessly continue to go forward to serve this country," McNeill said. "In their lives they not only set the example for this people of this country, but the people of the world."
Those who have chosen to move on as civilians not only carry with them the memories of September 11, 2001, but the memories of their military service affected by the War of Terrorism. They operate our banks and other local services. They teach in our schools and provide us with the goods and services that we require to function as a society. But they do it with a discipline, resiliency, and attention-to-detail that isn't often found in an average citizen. Paratroopers, past and present, are a special breed of American citizen.
The airborne Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were never forced to join the military, or to become Paratroopers, or to leave their families to engage the enemy in some of the most hostile places in the world. They chose to serve because they knew their country needed them.
To all service members across every branch who have lost their lives, or saved the lives of others, America will forever be in your debt. You are most appreciated and missed. The people of America must always be grateful for your service, bravery, and sacrifice.