Survivor speaks at prayer breakfast
September 23, 2011
FORT POLK, La. -- Soldiers and civilians from across Fort Polk stood in unison Sept. 9 as a fire bell pealed an alarm much the same as alarms sounded the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, sending firefighters to the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York.
The occasion was a prayer breakfast at the Warrior Community Center marking the 10th anniversary of terrorist attacks that sent airplanes into the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon and plummeting to the ground in a field in Shanksville, Pa., killing more than 2,900, including 353 firefighters in New York.
Fort Polk's chaplain offices and congregations sponsored the breakfast that featured guest speaker retired Air Force Col. John Bowley Jr. The event also included prayers for the nation, Soldiers and Families, and readings from the Bible's Old and New Testaments.
"Most everyone remembers where they were when the airplanes hit the buildings on September 11, 2001," said post chaplain Chap. (Col.) David Waters in his welcome. "We hope this morning you'll be refreshed with a renewed emphasis to God and country and to fight evil."
Waters read a sequence of events of the terrorist acts that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, then reminded those in attendance of remarks made by President George Bush at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport in the immediate aftermath of the attacks:
"Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts." Later that evening, from the Oval Office, Bush added: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."
In his opening prayer, Chap. (Maj.) Gary Fisher, Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group, prayed, "Not that God is on our side, but that America is on God's side."
Following the buffet-style breakfast, Chap. (Maj.) Stan Allen, 162nd Infantry Brigade, prayed for the nation.
"We ask you to bless our nation and those who lead us," Allen said. "Thank you for men and women who've dedicated their lives to serve and protect this nation. We are blessed to be called Americans."
The Bible passages included Psalms 121:1-6 and Ephesians 6:10-20.
In his prayer for Soldiers and Family members, Chap. (Maj.) Lee Rodgers, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said, "Thank you for our military Family. Continue your divine protection for our Soldiers and Families."
Following Rodgers' prayer, Waters' spouse, Cathy, provided music. Following her song, Bowley took the podium.
Bowley, who spent 30 years in the Air Force, was in the Pentagon the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
He spoke about the actions of heroes he saw that day, Soldiers and civilians who risked their lives to save their fellow workers.
He said that when the plane hit the five-cornered building in Arlington, Va., he felt a big boom.
"As I surveyed my first battlefield, you know what I saw -- Americans," Bowley said. "They looked like this room -- all colors, shapes and sizes. And they all bled the same blood."
Bowley spoke about the heroic actions played by military chaplains that day. As he watched them work, Bowley said he came to the realization that, "whoever had done this had better watch out for God's ministers."
Following Bowley's address, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commander Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn presented the speaker with a token of the post's appreciation.
"May we never forget those killed that day and those heroes who have served and fought to preserve our liberties," Chinn said. "Every time you see the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance or hear the 'Star Spangled Banner,' I hope you'll stand a little taller, a little straighter, because they (those killed on Sept. 11, 2001 and since in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) would be there beside you if they could. We have the greatest Army in the world because we have the best Soldiers in the world."
Following the presentation to Bowley, Fort Polk Fire Chief Michael Kuk, who brought a replica of the alarm bell used on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to summon firefighters, sounded the alarm. Kuk sounded four rounds of four peals, the standard call for firefighters.
"This is the call that would have sent New York firefighters to call box 55, the north tower of the World Trade Center," Kuk said. "They would not have known what they were going to specifically -- it could have been a fire on one of the floors, a false alarm or a broken sprinkler -- they only knew where they were going."
Capt. Kristen Soileau, Fort Polk Dental Activity, provided music before and after the ceremony and during breakfast, offering a selection of contemporary Christian songs.
Chap. (Lt. Col.) Dixey Behnken, family life chaplain closed the morning's activities with prayer, asking God's continued blessing on Soldiers and their Families, and thanking Soldiers for their commitment to freedom.
"May God continue to bless America," he said.