NEW YORK, NY -- The noise of one of the busiest cities in America echoed -- yet slowly calmed as citizens of New York City stopped to observe a small ceremony. A ceremony that might seem traditional or maybe routine but all who stopped to observe knew there was something different about this one.
With rain relentlessly falling, Soldiers from the United States Army Special Operations Command stood tall next to a larger than life bronze statue carefully designed to represent what is commonly known as the "Horse Soldier," during a rededication ceremony in New York City on Oct. 19, 2012. A day that marked the anniversary of the very first Soldiers putting boots on ground in Afghanistan in response to a terrorist attack on the United States of America.
Within weeks of the attacks on our great Nation, Special Operations Forces became our Nation's first responders overseas and automatically a bond was formed between them and NYC.
"Our Special Forces teams have proven time and again that they can deliver results in the most complex and difficult situations," said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, Michael A. Sheehan during the dedication ceremony. "They are specially assessed, selected and trained for adverse, complex and highly uncertain operating environments, and this statue captures that adaptability, skill, and perish."
The Special Forces teams went into Afghanistan and faced enormous operational challenges. They rapidly adapted their 21st century combat technologies and tactics into an age-old Central Asian model of guerilla and tribal warfare and they partnered with the Afghan tribes of the Northern Alliance. While deciding the best means of transportation they were given horses from their partner forces. Realizing that would be the only way to navigate the diverse terrain and harsh climate of Afghanistan, they did what they do best, they adapted and did whatever was needed to complete their mission. They coordinated military operations while on horseback with local tribal warlords; the Green Berets accomplished in weeks what many thought would take months, if not years. They defeated the Taliban and pushed the surviving members of Al-Qaeda into the mountains of Pakistan and shortly after adopted their familiar title of Horse Soldiers.
This statue was brought to NYC and unveiled last year during the city's annual Veteran's Day Parade and was placed in a temporary location until it could be brought to its final yet fitting resting place in front of One World Trade Center, across from ground zero. The statue uncommonly faces outward yet uncommon was nothing compared to meaning. The leaders of NYC and Special Operations Soldiers both agreed and the Soldier was properly placed, as he stands providing overwatch for the new building that once complete will stand taller than all others making the statement that you might hurt us but we will come back bigger and stronger.
To most American's 9 and 11 are just numbers but when you put them together they represent a date in time that may have shook our country but on that day and many to follow a bond was formed. A day that will forever be written in our history books, but one can argue that the memories of that day and the stories that will be passed on from generation to generation will not only be of the heartless attacks on innocent American people, but of the courageous and selfless acts that followed. Many recall the tragedy but instantly following, is the memory of the brave men and women of the NYPD, FDNY and the NY Port Authority as they were the first responders. As the two iconic buildings in our Nation were falling they still ran, not walked, into harm's way with complete disregard to their own safety to help others.
It was made note by many speakers during the ceremony that the statue, regardless of the fact that it depicts a Soldier it will forever be a representation of all first responders.
"It will also honor the fallen comrades of the NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority Police." Sheehan said. "It solidifies the bond of those who sacrificed their lives."
To the unknown, they will walk by and see a Soldier on a horse, but to many others they will see a statue of a Green Beret on horse providing overwatch on One World Trade Center.