FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Loss, sacrifice, valor, bravery, commitment -- Col. Stephen Shrader, Fort Riley garrison commander, repeated those words several times during the 9/11 commemoration as he spoke of the values Americans demonstrated since Sept. 11, 2001.

"These words represent the actions of real heroes and it is for this reason we gather to remember and honor all that they represent to the past, the present and our future," he said.

Under clear blue skies, Soldiers, civilians and retirees listened to Shrader's words as they reflected on their memories of that fateful day, which changed the course of American history.

"There are few among us today who cannot recall with perfect clarity where they were and what they were doing when they first learned of the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon," he said. "As a relatively newly minted company commander in the 3rd Infantry Division, I stood side by side with my first sergeant in his office as we watched the second plane crash into the towers."

He recalled the feelings of disbelief, anger and shock as he realized that the commitment they made when they joined the Army, to defend America, was going to be called upon.

He also remembered the first heroes of that day -- the civilians and first responders who ran into the burning towers to rescue as many of their fellow Americans as they could.

"We were not the first to answer the call to demonstrate the resolve of America," he said, speaking of Soldiers. "Citizens within the World Trade Center who gave every measure to help friends and employees navigate the damaged structures of 9/11 were the first to show that resolve. First responders of emergency services from police, to firefighters, to EMTS like those who sit in front of you today were the first to show the resolve of the nation."

Nine first responders from several area agencies were seated to the side of the 9/11 granite memorial during the ceremony to honor those who perished.

Among them was Lt. Michael Lowe, from the Fort Riley Police Department's liaison office. He was a sergeant in the Army stationed at Fort Riley with the 1-41 Infantry on 9/11.

"We had rail headed and were sending our stuff to (National Training Center)," Lowe said. "We came back from (physical training) for the 9 o'clock formation and no one was outside. As the NCO I went inside to find out where my guys were and everyone was in the day room watching 9/11 unfold."

He said one of the difficulties many Soldiers and first responders have in any large-scale emergency situation is balancing the need to take care of their families with doing their job.

In the days and years following 9/11, millions of Americans showed their resolve to the nation by serving in the United States military.

"The sacrifice, valor, bravery, commitment and resolve of our armed forces, to include the Soldiers of the Big Red One, have been seen and well documented in places like Samawah, Baghdad, Fallujah, Habbaniyah, Taji, Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Kunar to name but a few," he said.

The sacrifice for some was the ultimate. Although there were no names of Soldiers lost from Fort Riley over the past year, those who perished since 2001 were remembered as the band played "America the Beautiful."

The only sound heard, as Shrader and 1st Sgt. Jason Schweers, Fort Riley Garrison first sergeant, laid a wreath at the base of the 9/11 monument, was the chirping of crickets and a distant bird. The crack from a rifle volley that pierced the air followed by the melancholy notes of taps driving home the somber cause for the gathering.

The ceremony closed with a benediction. Afterward, as the band continued to play, guests visited with each other and walked around the monument, some stopping to read the names of Soldiers who were stationed at Fort Riley when they died in the Global War on Terror.

Among those at the commemoration was Macey Jackson. Her husband, Corey Jackson, was in the Army Reserves and serving a mobilization at Fort Riley when he was killed in a traffic accident two years ago.

Having only been married about five years at the time of his accident, she sat at the 9/11 ceremony feeling the heartbreak of losing a spouse.

"A lot of people don't realize the sacrifices Soldiers and their families make daily to protect us," she said. "I think it is important that people don't forget about the lives that are no longer with us. It's easy for people to hear about it and still go about their lives but there are so many family members left behind that still have to live and carry on."

For each name engraved on the monument there is a story of loss, sacrifice, valor, bravery and commitment. Lynn Peterson, owner of Peterson Monuments in Abilene, designed and built the monument with those values in mind, he said.

The two granite towers are positioned on a pentagon-shaped base and is to scale of the World Trade Center and the pentagon. From his seat in the front row of the commemoration, Peterson said he reflected on all of the lives lost and all of the individuals who have answered their country's call to service.

"On a day like this it is a time to remember -- things of the past give us direction for the future," he said.