By Leslie Ozawa, Fort Irwin Public Affairs SpecialistSeptember 30, 2013
FORT IRWIN, Calif.-- Fort Irwin's commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks began with a ground-breaking ceremony for a memorial to be built near the garrison's town center. About thirty uniformed Fort Irwin Soldiers, firefighters, and military and civilian security personnel formed two lines behind the ceremony display that included two 5-foot steel beams from the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
According to Fort Irwin's Director of Emergency Services Mike Butolph, the impetus for the memorial began three years ago, when a Fort Irwin fire department fire engineer, Gary Gonzalez approached his fire chief, Ray Smith, about requesting an artifact from the World Trade Center twin towers for display in the fire department, as other fire departments in the United States were doing.
"All the folks on Fort Irwin wanted to make it a community thing, more centrally located, where the whole community could visit it, not just the fire station," Smith said. When the proposed government funding for the memorial couldn't be realized, advocates for the memorial decided to build and maintain the Army-approved memorial through private funding from interested organizations and individuals.
At the ceremony, Butolph recounted how a firefighter, Jacob Chavez, asked his brother, a partner in a video production company, to help with a slide brief the department was preparing to present the memorial proposal to other Army officials. His brother, impressed by how Fort Irwin Soldiers and emergency services personnel shared a common bond, decided with his partner to donate the services of their production company. The company brought 15 members of a video production team to Fort Irwin for five days in August, to produce a 38-minute video, "Bound."
"We were completely blown away by what we saw out here," said Micheal Fiero co-founder of Anyone Collective and co-director of the video. "It was bigger than we could imagine. Driving out down-range here, seeing all the camaraderie here between the Department of Emergency Services, the air medevac, and the civilian component there.
"The story became bigger and bigger. Stephen (Stephen Chavez, his partner in the company) and I had an opportunity to go to New York after that. We saw the 9/11 memorial, and on the airplane ride back, we came up with the idea to call this thing 'Bound.' As soon as we did, just starting the communication on what that meant to everybody, that's what made the film happen, really."
In the 38-minute video shown after the ceremony, Fort Irwin garrison commander Col. Jon Braga says, "When you think of Emergency Services personnel, they're cut from the same cloth as a Soldier. They are bound by selfless service. There's something in their DNA that make them the same type of character, have the same type of values, internal values. They really are our brothers in arms. They are willing to sacrifice themselves, for the safety or the greater good of us.
At the ceremony, Braga urged the ceremony audience of about two hundred Fort Irwin Soldiers, civilians and family members, to remember the more than 3,000 who perished that day, and to also reflect on those who have sacrificed through the years since Sept. 11, 2001. "Think about the 63,000 service members deployed today, right now, in harm's way. Think about just how much they would give, to be here today with their loved ones, in the sun, safe, secure, and proud."
Braga ended by reflecting on "the same American Spirit that will see us through these challenging times, whether it is a worker without a job in a tough economy, a firefighter or police officer on the front lines of the home front, risking their lives every day, or a Soldier or service member facing down our enemies overseas who seek to do us harm and destroy our way of life."