NEW YORK (Army News Service, Nov. 2, 2007) - Scores of Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers risked all to aid their fellow citizens on one of the darkest days of New York's history, Sept. 11, 2001.
On Wednesday more than 100 friends, family and service members came to honor 13 of those Citizen-Soldiers in a ceremony on the site of the World Trade Center.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren acknowledged the response of these warriors to the call of duty - especially when none of them were on duty at the time.
Since Reserve-component members cannot generally be awarded wirh medals for their actions while not on duty, Department of Defense General Counsel, William J. Haynes, had spent some time working to ensure the Soldiers finally received recognition.
Mr. Haynes praised the unflinching commitment of the Citizen-Soldiers in the midst of chaos. He said they rushed in where "they knew that their talents and training could help."
These first responders, Secretary Geren said, answered the call "with no regard to their personal safety." He said these Soldiers showed everyone the meaning of duty, honor, and country.
"They didn't wait for anyone to tell them what to do," Secretary Geren said. "They did what they could to help their fellow citizens."
Sgt. Lawrence Provost was substitute teaching at the time just north of Syracuse. Upon learning of the attacks, he made the four-hour drive to New York City to assist.
"Courage doesn't wait for a command," said Mr. Haynes. "Duty does not need a permission slip."
These Soldiers ran to the danger as others ran from it.
U.S. Navy Captain G. Mark Hardy reminded those in attendance that service members like those honored "took up arms against an enemy they did not choose to fight."
Capt. Haynes told the recipients, "Your courage has inspired me, your fellow citizens, and people around the world."
1st Sgt. Frank Batsch was part of a search-and-rescue team sent to the World Trade Center. The team evacuated moments before the building collapsed. But if he once again found himself in harm's way, Batsch said he would answer the call "without hesitation."
Many of the 13 honorees had not seen one another since that fateful September. "It brings back a flood of emotions, both positive and negative," Sgt. Provost said.
For 1st Sgt. Batsch, the ceremony provided an emotional footnote to a tragic moment in time.
"I never expected anything like this," he said. "I wasn't asking for anything other than what I could do to help."
Several of the honorees, including Sgt. Provost, have since been discharged from the Army.
Lori D'Augostine, the former Sgt. Provost's companion of two years, said the two met when she interviewed him on a 9/11 story. "I'm really very proud of him," said Ms. D'Augostine. "There are a lot of redeeming things that come out of this."
The former Sgt. Provost said the experience has inspired a renewed confidence in America's ability to defeat a determined enemy. "America will come out of it stronger and better."
Soldiers honored were:
*Col. Michael Finn, USAR (Department of the Army Certificate)
*Sgt. Lawrence Provost, USAR (Department of the Army Certificate) - discharged
1st Sgt. Santos Diaz, ARNG (Meritorious Service Medal)
1st Sgt. Frank Batsch, NJARNG (Army Commendation Medal)
Spc. J.T. Berger, USAR (ARCOM) - discharged
1st Lt. Lazaro Fuentes (ARCOM) - discharged
Spc. Ricardo Garcia, ARNG (ARCOM)
Spc. Charles Hernandez, ARNG (ARCOM)
Sgt. 1st Class Bentley Heyliger, ARNG (ARCOM) - discharged
Lt. Col. Gilbert Mestler, USAR (ARCOM)
Spc. Jose Morales, ARNG (ARCOM) - discharged
1st Lt. Bryan Pelton, USAR (ARCOM) - discharged
Spc. Bryan Stern, USA (ARCOM) - discharged
(Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer K. Yancey serves with Army Public Affairs-New York.)