By Glen Paddie, Courier staffMay 6, 2011
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., May 6, 2011 -- Imagine receiving a phone call by your employer informing you that you've been hand-picked to travel to New York City to pick up a "special" shipment weighing roughly 23,000 pounds for the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell.
This is exactly what happened to 33-year Landstar Trucking employee, Denton Carr, of Crossville, Tenn.
"This is the most special thing I've ever done in my life," said Carr, as he removed the chains from his cargo. "I just kept thinking on the drive up there and back that I just can't mess this up."
Upon Carr's arrival near Campbell Army Airfield, he was greeted by 5th SFG Commander Col. Mark E. Mitchell and a team of 5th SFG leaders.
Carr's tarp-covered delivery was then ceremoniously and expeditiously unveiled by 5th SFG Soldiers.
At first glance from someone not in the know, the cargo might look like two rusty pieces of steel on an unassuming flat-bed tractor-trailer, being unloaded on a cool, cloudy day next to some warehouse at an obscure Army installation somewhere in the world.
However, it was so much more.
On Carr's trailer sat two uniformly stacked steel beams from the stricken twin towers in New York City, which once stood tall, strong and intact as an example of a flourishing democracy to the world.
"I would tell you that we are relieved and honored to see part of the World Trade Center arrive here today," said Mitchell."Not a day has gone by since September 2001 without a 5th SFG Soldier deployed somewhere around the world supporting our nation's efforts to combat terrorism and to bring those responsible for 9/11 to justice."
Mitchell added that every 5th SFG Soldier has a personal stake in the success of our nation's efforts to combat terrorism around the world.
"To have this World Trade Center steel arrive today, particularly after the death of Osama bin Laden [Sunday], really means a lot to us," Mitchell stated. "It's a great day. We couldn't have scripted it better for this to arrive here today."
Mitchell went on to talk about how the special bond between the 5th SFG and New York City was forged.
"I was on one of the first teams to infiltrate Afghanistan after 9/11. Each team was given a piece of the World Trade Center with instructions to bury it at an appropriate time and place," he said.
"As we inflicted significant defeats upon the Taliban regime, we would bury the World Trade remnants, record the grid coordinates with a global positioning system, and then report them back in."
Mitchell said once the burial mission was successfully completed, the locations were then put on a print, the print was framed and a copy personally taken to the New York City's Police Department, Fire Department, Port Authority and the City of New York.
"I think that was a fitting memorial to those first responders who lost their lives that day and a symbol of our commitment to seek justice for the wrongs that were inflicted, not only on the United States of America, but the people throughout the world by al-Qaida," said Mitchell.
Mitchell's impressive command demeanor was boosted even more by the tenured wisdom of Deputy Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Cunningham, a 22-year member of the 5th SFG.
"In my career, I've been in war a lot, so I've sensed what death and destruction smell like," said Cunningham.
"Today, as soon as we pulled that tarp off those two pieces of steel, it took me back to the smell I experienced when we visited the Port Authority warehouse in New York where all the World Trade Center remnants are stored."
Cunningham, visibly moved, said he was awe inspired and humbled when his team visited the Port Authority warehouse and was surprised the smell would last almost 10 years after 9-11.
"I mean, there are a whole range of emotions that comes with that smell, the years that have passed since the attack, the friends of mine that have been killed doing our nation's business against terrorism," he said.
"This is very emotional for me, but it also brings back a sense of pride I had in 2001 when it was us, the 5th Special Forces Group, that had the opportunity to exact revenge for our nation."
The Sergeant Major said he thinks having the steel beam remnants from the World Trade Center at Fort Campbell is very important for the future.
"It can remind us of why we do what we do and why we shouldn't have short memories," he noted. "Americans, at times, have very short memories, but this is something we should never forget."
"I don't see how we can forget with as many lives as it touched, not just from the attack on 9-11, but the 10 years of fighting the global war on terrorism that has changed millions of lives," he added.
Still a bit unsure how and where on Fort Campbell the steel would be stored, Mitchell said he was working closely with the installation to make sure it's fittingly and appropriately displayed.
"We are looking forward to getting these historical artifacts properly displayed," Mitchell said. "Let it be a great reminder for all of us, especially after nearly 10 years of fighting this war, of why we are still out there and why we do what we do."
Mitchell agreed the delivery of the steel beams had an element of closure to it.
"The fight against terrorism and extremism is not going to hinge on any single event, but we can take relief by seeing progress," he said. "Today is certainly a mark of progress."
Once the beams were removed from the tractor-trailer and the event came to an end, Carr, an Air Force veteran himself, gathered his chains and then stood, fighting his emotions, for a moment holding his new 5th SFG coin awarded to him by Mitchell and fellow Green Berets.
"I've just got goose bumps all over me right now being amongst these people here who have served and sacrificed everything," he said. "This will stay with me for the rest of my life."