Fort Polk ceremony marks 10th anniversary of 9/11
September 23, 2011
FORT^POLK, La. -- Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, dawned sunny and unseasonably cool, a meteorological doppelganger to the Sept. 11 of 10 years ago, the day that saw American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crash into New York City's World Trade Center.
During Fort Polk's commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Main Post Chapel bells tolled at 7:46 a.m. (local time) in observance of the first of the attacks, when Flight 11 flew into the World Trade Center's North Tower between floors 93 and 99; killing 1,521 people.
The bells tolled again at 8:03 a.m. to commemorate the victims of Flight 175; the airliner flew into the World Trade Center's South Tower between floors 77 and 85, taking an additional 659 lives. The bells chimed again, at 8:37 a.m., honoring the 184 souls lost in the attack on the Pentagon. During the ceremony, the bells chimed a final time, honoring the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa.
A slight breeze caressed the flags on display and the sun glinted off Warrior Memorial Park's Global War on Terrorism monument, two granite towers that honor the Fort Polk Soldiers, Families and civilians whose support and sacrifice have helped preserve America's freedom.
Chap. (Col.) David Waters gave the invocation.
"Ten years have passed, but the events of 9/11 remain indelibly inscribed in our memories," he said.
"On that day we looked on in horror and disbelief. We looked with honor on the acts of courage performed by ordinary people. Today again we shed our tears in a common bond of grief for those we love and have lost over this past decade. Our grief has been turned into determination, to do what is good and right."
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Letourneau gave a stirring rendition of the National Anthem and Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today."
Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Commander Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn gave the keynote address before placing a wreath with Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Brauer and Spc. Matthew Jackson, JRTC and Fort Polk Soldier of the Year, at the Global War on Terrorism Memorial.
"There are very few times in your life that you will remember exactly where you were when you heard the news -- Sept. 11 is one of those events," said Chinn.
"Today we honor those who gave all that day and those that have given their lives since then, protecting the freedoms we enjoy."
"Words are inadequate," Chinn said, "to remove the pain of the loss the world suffered that day, a loss compounded by the service members who have sacrificed their lives in a prolonged battle against the scourge of terrorism."
Chinn spoke of the tolling of the bells, which rang, he said, not only for the dead but "for us all -- the dead and the living who must always remember."
Chinn also addressed the fact that the forces that fight terrorism today are an all-volunteer force.
"Everyone in today's military has chosen to serve in a time of war."
The ceremony was most important, said Chinn, "because we are here to remember each of the almost 3,000 people who went to work on that bright September morning and did not come home; and our men and women in uniform who have lost their lives preserving our freedom.
"When you hear our National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance or reveille or retreat -- stand a little taller and straighter to honor our heroes. They are standing taller and straighter in ghostly assemblage next to you.
"They are heroes all -- not two-dimensional printed names that lay passively on the pages of history. They walked among us. They lived among us. They are us."