By Season Osterfeld, Fort Riley Public AffairsSeptember 14, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- "The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Flight 93, that took the lives of 2,977 people in 2001 have always been linked to previous major attacks on U.S. soil 60 years earlier, that is on Pearl Harbor," said Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general. "President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that that day would be a date that would live in infamy. I don't believe that 9/11 is a day in infamy. The day's title, Patriot Day, shows proof in my belief."
Sixteen years have passed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor those who lost their lives that day and in the years to come, Fort Riley held a ceremony on the 9/11 anniversary at the Global War on Terrorism Memorial.
"This morning we commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks at the Fort Riley Global War on Terrorism memorial," said Master Sgt. Joel Larabaeza, representative from the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. "The memorial's granite pentagon base and marble twin towers represent the actual sites in which the terrorist attacks occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. The names of the Soldiers mobilized and deployed, who were killed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, to include the year of their deaths, are engraved on the memorial's twin towers. No name will be added this year."
The ceremony included firefighters, police and first responders from Fort Riley and the surrounding area, standing in somber silence behind and beside the audience and memorial.
"Today, we remember our fellow Americans who perished in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001," Larabaeza said to the audience. "We remember the brave first responders who gave their lives to rescue those trapped in the doomed twin towers and to our local first responders in front of you for all of their dedication to the service of our country."
The 1st Inf. Div. Band performed multiple songs and the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard carried the flag of the United States of America.
"Today, we remember our military men and women who laid down their lives in the Global War on Terrorism to secure the freedoms promised to all Americans in our U.S. constitution," Larabaeza said.
Twenty seconds of silence in reflection and remembrance of the lives lost since 9/11 from all in attendance was met with three tolls of a bell in the bell tower high above. After, Martin and 1st Inf. Div. Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Cornelison laid a wreath beside the memorial. An inscription upon the wreath read "Some gave all."
Gold Star mother Gay Eisenhauer attended the ceremony in honor of her son, Wyatt Eisenhauer formerly of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, who was killed in action May 19, 2005, in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle in which he was traveling.
Her son, she said, enlisted after the Global War on Terrorism had begun and volunteered for the mission that ultimately led to his death.
"9/11 changed the thought of the people in our country," Eisenhauer said. "My son had his business, felt he had been blessed and decided that it was his job to give back, so he joined the Army at the age of 26. He turned 27 in basic training."
She said there was something special about Wyatt who was born on Flag Day, killed on Armed Forces Day and buried on Memorial Day -- something that drove him to do more for his people. In honor of her son, Eisenhauer continues to spread awareness of the ongoing sacrifices service members give in defense of their nation. She said she fears people might have grown complacent in the years that have passed.
"I think we are getting complacent again," she said. "I think we need to remember and right here on this fort (Fort Riley) we do remember that this goes on every day. For everyone here, there's always a Soldier in harm's way and I think it's our job as Gold Stars … to remind the people that our freedom isn't free and there's unseen sacrifices these Soldiers make, but when we come back, we can't see it, but they've been made."
Ric Seward, fire chief with Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services, said the memorial is a day of reflection for him and other first responders, but they treat the day just like any other -- continuously remaining vigilant and prepared.
"We go about our day," he said. "Our main goal and priority today, just like any other day is to provide service to our customers here on Fort Riley in the surrounding area, so outside of the ceremony, it's just an opportunity for everybody to reflect within their own emotions."
For Seward, the threats to first responders, service members and citizens still exist every day. Those threats are why service members are deployed around the globe and why first responders continue to train and prepare for worst case scenarios.
He said these ceremonies may still serve to remind people of the dangers of growing complacent.
"Maybe these ceremonies remind us at least once a year that the threat is still there, it's still active," Seward said.
As the ceremony came to a close, family members of those whose names are inscribed upon the memorial viewed it and traced their fingers over the names of their loved one.
"We've got to remember that today we remember the sacrifice of those that paid the ultimate price either as a direct result of those despicable acts of terrorists or as a response to those actions of the course of the past 16 years," Martin said. "It is vital that we never forget the cost paid by our heroes on that September day 16 years ago or on the days that follow. There's no stronger statement of commitment than giving one's life in the service of others. We owe them an unending gratitude. Indeed for them, no sacrifice was too great. While we honor and remember their death, we also commemorate the service of those heroes and that is the true essence of Patriot Day in my personal opinion. In the immediate aftermath of the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, brave firefighters, police officers and first responders quickly reacted to all three sites to save as many people as possible without any regard for their personal safety and only in the service of others. In the days that followed, people from across the country donated their time, their resources and efforts to organize and assist those in need -- not to glorify themselves or their organizations but because they were and are dedicated to service. In the weeks that followed, the military mobilized to seek out and end the threat of international terrorism, first in Afghanistan and then a couple years later in Iraq."