Veterans Day: Remembering those who have served - past and present
November 20, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Everyone loves a long weekend -- a chance to put work aside and to spend time with family and friends.
But some of those long weekends were designed to give Americans a chance to remember the service and sacrifices of the few for the greater good of all.
Veterans Day, which originated as Armistice Day and a way to pay tribute to the veterans of World War I, is one such holiday. While Americans are free to celebrate the occasion any way they choose, they are asked to spend at least a few moments to contemplate the enormous efforts made on their behalf by those who have gone in harm's way to ensure the freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
"Today we honor every man and woman who has proudly worn the uniform and bravely defended our nation while protecting its people from the evils of the world," said Tim Penzien, Post 27 commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, during a Veterans Day Ceremony at Veterans Park on Clay Kaserne Nov. 8. "Every American, no matter where they live or what they do, reaps the benefits of their service."
While looking back at those who served on the front lines in former wars, Penzien said it's also important to pay tribute to one's contemporaries. "We owe so much to today's generation of great patriots, and those of the past as well. We mustn't forget the thousands of our best and brightest who are deployed to all corners of the earth defending our freedoms. We pray for their safe return as we offer support to their families while they are away.
"Thousands of America's finest died fighting to ensure others could be free," Penzien said. "Our Armed Forces bravely go wherever needed, to places such as Panama, Lebanon, Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Granada and Southwest Asia. America's veterans earned every one of the benefits promised to them, by making a commitment that 99 percent of other Americans are simply unwilling to make."
Speaker Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, brought the message of service and sacrifice full circle in remembering a veteran who was killed "long after wearing the uniform" -- on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Cyril Rescoria was one such veteran and hero," said Carstens.
Born in Great Britain in the lead-up to World War II, Rescoria first served in the British Army in the 1950s before moving to the United States and enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1963. A veteran of the Battle of the Ia Drang in Vietnam (described in the book and movie "We Were Soldiers Once … And Young"), Rescoria was known for his bravery, compassion and leadership, Carstens said.
"After retiring as a colonel, Rescoria attended law school and … eventually reverted back to his 'calling' of defending those in need and bounced from several executive level security jobs," Carstens said, eventually becoming the director of security for Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley.
"After the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing, Rescoria worried about a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In 1990, he and a former military colleague wrote a report to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, insisting on the need for more security in the parking garage," said Carstens. "Their recommendations were ignored.
"After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Rescoria gained greater credibility and authority, which resulted in a change to the culture of Morgan Stanley," Carstens explained. While his recommendation that the company leave Manhattan and the World Trade Center for lower costing accommodations in New Jersey were not followed, "at Rescoria's insistence, all employees, including senior executives, then practiced emergency evacuations every three months."
Realizing that the employees of the company (which occupied 22 floors of the World Trade Center) could not rely on first responders in an emergency, Rescoria insisted they be prepared through surprise fire drills "which put him into conflict with some high-powered executives who resented the interruption to their daily activities," Carstens said.
"At 8:46 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1. Rescoria heard the explosion and saw the tower burning from his office window," said Carstens. "When a Port Authority announcement came over the PA system urging people to stay at their desks, Rescoria ignored the announcement, grabbed his bullhorn, walkie talkie and cell phone, and began systematically ordering Morgan Stanley employees to evacuate, including the 1,000 employees in neighboring WTC 5. He directed people down a stairwell from the 44th floor, continuing to calm employees after the building lurched violently following the crash of the second plane 38 floors above. … Having calmed his men in Vietnam by singing Cornish songs from his youth, Rescoria did the same in the stairwell -- singing.
"After successfully evacuating the majority of Morgan Stanley's 2,687 employees, he went back inside the building," Carstens said. "When one of his colleagues told him he too had to evacuate the World Trade Center, Rescoria replied, 'As soon as I make sure everyone else is out.' He was last seen on the 10th floor, heading upward, shortly before the tower collapsed. His remains were never found."
"I tell you this story today because many of you standing here today no longer wear the uniform of the United States military -- yet your service to this great military community remains stronger than ever," the garrison commander said. "Whether you served 20 days or 20 years, active, Reserve or National Guard, you are a member of the brotherhood and sisterhood in arms -- and we celebrate you today."
The ceremony was supported by the Wiesbaden High School Band and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.