FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker paused to reflect on the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago and honor those who lost their lives that day during a ceremony at the Directorate of Public Safety Sept. 10.
The Fort Rucker 9/11 20th Anniversary Moving Tribute featured remarks by Lt. Col. Phillip Lenz, director of DPS, and Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general.
“This is really a chance for us to recognize the significance of the 20th anniversary of the attacks on our country that took place Sept 11, 2001,” Lenz said, adding that almost 3,000 lives were lost that day, with 412 being first responders. “First responders who did what had to be done as part of their required duties, and more so as part of a mindset and a culture of brave men and women who put their lives on the line so that others may live.
“Today’s ceremony is about recognizing and memorializing those who perished that fateful day, and also continuing to show our appreciation for that small group of our population we call first responders – including our firefighters, our police officers, our security officers, our emergency medical technicians and our hospital workers – who remain on the front lines in the ongoing battle with COVID. Thank you to all of those who don the uniform and put themselves in harm’s way every single day.”
Francis agreed, adding that the ceremony also paid tribute “to all our veterans who serve, and continue to serve and sacrifice for our nation. They will never be forgotten and, truly, the events of 9-11 have strengthened our resolve to remain vigilant and ready to meet any challenge.”
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the nation struggled to figure out what they meant for its future, he added.
“It’s interesting that many of you here today were very young – many of you not even born yet – when this event happened to our nation,” Francis said. “As we perceived the events of 9-11, different folks perceived them differently. Some were very young when they occurred – they were very scared and didn’t know what this meant.
“Others, who’d been through Vietnam and other national tragedies, said, ‘We’ve been through this before, we’ll get through it again – we got this.’ It’s that kind of grit and that kind of attitude of never losing or cowering to an enemy that has brought us to where we are today,” he added. “They were very different reactions, but each one gives us a snapshot of the effect that these events have had on our nation and our culture as we move forward.
“Our Army is older than our nation, and down through time whenever freedom has been threatened there has always been a legacy of brave patriots who were willing to raise their right hand and say, ‘Send me!’ Just like our Soldiers in the wake of 9-11, people who are willing to put their lives on the line to ensure that our country remains safe and free, protect our way of life and defend our Constitution continue to build on our long history of defending America through strong leadership,” Francis continued. “The courage of our Soldiers and their ability to quickly adapt to changing security threats remain a fundamental tenet of our Army.”
He added that when he thinks about Fort Rucker’s mission to provide the best-trained aviation professionals to the nation’s operational force, he’s “grateful for all of the Soldiers and their families who have come through the post’s gates.
“They stepped up to the plate over the last 20 years of sustained combat operations and endured the strain of an extreme operational tempo to keep us free,” Francis said. “Our nation is forever grateful for their selfless service and sacrifice.
“Likewise, our first responders at Fort Rucker enable that mission to occur every day across 17 stagefields, five basefields and across the cantonment area,” he added. “From our firefighters to our police force to our security force to our EMS folks, all of them are a critical and vital part of our mission here every single day.”
He also remarked that it’s interesting that there is a generation coming into the Army that doesn’t remember 9-11 because they were too young or not even born yet.
“It’s all the more important that we have events like this one today to make sure that we never forget the lives that were lost and to honor the selfless service of our brave heroes,” Francis said.
“I’d ask that you continue your thoughts and prayers to those who are actually deployed around the world today, and for all of our first responders across this nation and here at Fort Rucker, who stand in the breech, ready to help us on any given day. We will never forget – Above the Best,” he said.
After the general spoke, the assembled crowd observed a moment of silence for the lives lost Sept. 11, 2001, and then Flatiron flew in and a crew member delivered a flag to Francis, who turned it over to Col. Robert J. Holcombe, Fort Rucker garrison commander, to take on the group walk. The walk went from DPS to Bldg. 101, to Lyster Army Health Clinic and then to Bldg. 5700 before returning to DPS.