CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- Eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community members paid special tribute to the fallen and their families during the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's Patriot Day 3K Run/Walk Sept. 11 on Chièvres Air Base, Belgium.
For first responders such as firefighters and military police stationed on Chièvres Air Base and SHAPE, the remembrance was a meaningful opportunity to honor those who answered the call of the duty and sacrificed their lives for their nation.
"The day takes on a special significance to our first responders. 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers perished that day. They saw a need to rush in and help," said Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Schnoebelen, commander of the 424th Air Base Squadron on Chièvres Air Base.
Firefighters from the 424th Air Base Squadron donned firefighters' uniform and equipment while military policemen wore police vests as they marched two miles in the rain.
The weather, however, did not deter the military personnel and race participants, as it was insignificant to what the 9/11 victims faced on that fateful day.
For Army Spc. Jonathon Gray, assigned to the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Center in Belgium, it was also a reminder why he serves in the military. Gray was in middle school during the attacks, but he never forgot what he saw on television. The event had a profound impact on his life as well as his friends who joined the military and faced combat.
"The event [Patriot Day 3K] reminds us why we are here, why we signed up and why we honor the fallen," said Gray. Being in an international military community, the remembrance also signified the strength of the NATO alliance.
"It was not just an attack on the U.S. Over 90 countries lost citizens that day including most of our NATO partners," said Schnoebelen. "In response to the 9/11 attacks, our international partners gathered around and ultimately accompanied us in Operating Enduring Freedom and NATO's resolute support mission."
As race participants reflected on 9/11, Col. Sean H. Kuester, garrison commander, encouraged people to empower themselves to make a positive change for the future by fostering one-on-one relations with international military partners.
"Remember the stories of triumph over that tragedy happened at the grassroots level," he said. "If you reach out your hand, you can do anything. You can pick someone up from the ground and you can lead them, but you got to stick your hand out first. Get to know each other because that is how we will triumph."