LATHAM, New York – New York National Guard headquarters personnel marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in a ceremony Sept. 10 before a backdrop of 2,977 small American flags — one for every American who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
The short event featured the national anthem, remarks from a chaplain, the playing of taps and a helicopter flyover as well as remarks from Army Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York, and retired Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto, the adjutant general from 2006 to 2010.
Taluto also served as the commander of New York National Guard troops operating in New York City following the 9/11 attacks and commanded the 42nd Infantry Division in Iraq in 2005.
In his remarks, Shields noted the first member of the U.S. military to respond on 9/11 was a New York National Guardsman — Technical Sgt. Jeremy Powell of the Northeast Air Defense Sector. Since that day, New York Army and Air National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have deployed over 25,000 times.
Since 9/11, 38 members of the New York National Guard — 31 Soldiers and seven Airmen — have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Throughout that day, New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen reported into their armories and airbases around the state,” Shields said. “In the finest tradition of the National Guard, and indeed the entire United States military, our Soldiers and Airmen ran to the sound of the guns, ready and able to respond as needed.”
“Since then, a generation of our National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, New York Naval Militia, and New York Guard members, and Division of Military and Naval Affairs civilian employees have spent their careers with war as the constant backdrop,” Shields said.
“We must remember Sept. 11 because it changed us. It changed New York City. It changed our state. It changed our nation. It changed the very nature of the National Guard. It changed everything,” Shields emphasized.
Shields said National Guard Soldiers commanded by Taluto served alongside police and firefighters in New York to help the city recover.
Taluto pointed out that for young Americans, the words Sept. 11 have the same resonance as “Remember the Alamo” or “Remember Pearl Harbor.”
They know it is important, but they don’t have the same vivid memories of those who lived through it, he said.
“I was born after Pearl Harbor,” Taluto said. “I knew it was important, but I didn’t remember it.”
“Post 9/11, it is a different world, to be sure,” he said.
Taluto was proud to lead the New York National Guard men and women who responded following the collapse of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The task force performed magnificently,” Taluto said, noting that those same men and women then deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“All of the things the Guard has done since 9/11, they have done magnificently,” Taluto emphasized.