GULF OF ADEN --
GULF OF ADEN (Sept. 11, 2017) – It was a day that changed the course of history for millions of people around the world and impacted all walks of life – a day that still weighs heavily on the hearts of so many, including those serving in uniform.
Spread across three different ships, Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors aboard America’s Amphibious Readiness Group (MEU/ARG) took a moment to remember that one fateful day, 16 years ago.
Semper Vigilans, Always Vigilant. Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. These are mottos of Marines and Sailors, who gathered in the chapel of USS San Diego (LPD 22) to pay tribute to those who lost their lives live by, explained Boatswain’s Mate Chief-Select Jason Thompson, who spoke at the ceremony. To our Marines and Sailors, these mottos are more than just words painted on a ship or sewn on a flag, it’s part of our culture.
“Taking a moment to remember 9/11 is our obligation to the past, not just as people in uniform, but as human beings looking forward to a better day,” said Thompson. “We are obligated to pause and remember so we can chart a better course.”
The group of petty officer first class Sailors, who will soon promote to chief petty officers aboard San Diego, gathered with their fellow Marines and Sailors in the chapel to take time to reflect on the impact 9/11 has had on so many fellow service members.
“We consider how frail the bonds of human existence are and that in a mere moment we can lose a loved one,” said Thompson. “That bond must be strengthened in moments like these, when we take a moment look at each other not through the gaze of a military eye, but as human beings.”
Following the national anthem to open the ceremony, the ship’s chaplain said a brief prayer and Thompson spoke to those in attendance.
“Our ship’s motto is Semper Vigilans, Always Vigilant,” Thompson said. “That is perhaps more relevant today than ever before and when I consider the unflagging Marine Corps and their motto, Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful, I am filled with the resolve to remember our dead and faithfully carry on under the American flag. We honor those who sacrificed and we seek a way forward. The American way of life is still here – our presence on this ship here and now is a testimony to that.”
Deployed aboard USS America (LHA 6), Sailors and Marines heard over the loud speaker a minute-by-minute breakdown of the events of 9/11; stories of brave civilians attempting to thwart the terrorist attack and the final impact on the Twin Towers was recounted.
It was a chilling reminder that freedom isn't free, explained Sgt. Haley Jimenez, 15th MEU unit mobility control chief, who reenlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during 9/11 and remembers everyone taking a moment of silence following her oath.
"It takes you back," said Jimenez, reminiscing about sitting in her third grade class with teacher, Mrs. Lawson. "For most, remembering exactly what they were doing the moment of the attacks is not hard to do. When I was that age I didn't really understand what was going on, but now I am deployed and it really gives you a different appreciation for what happened.”
Jimenez, a Sarasota, Florida, native serving with the 15th MEU said she never would have imagined that she would be serving as a Marine in the Gulf of Aden, nearly two decades after the 9/11 attack.
"I never thought I'd be here, but I really am glad to be part of a team that is working day in and day out to prevent and deter such actions from hurting innocent people around the world," said Jimenez.
As the ceremony concluded, Marines and Sailors took a moment of silence, together, as one force determined to remember what happened, committed to grow from the experience and steadfast in their resolve to remain Always Vigilant, Always Faithful.
“Since 9/11, the American resolve has withstood,” said Thompson. “Our responsibility to our country is more present now than ever.”
The MEU/ARG is currently deployed off the coast of Djibouti, Africa, participating in Alligator Dagger 2017, a combat rehearsal to integrate and synchronize Naval Amphibious Forces, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s warfighting capabilities and those of adjacent U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Special Operations Forces units. During Alligator Dagger, the MEU/ARG is able to rehearse critical amphibious combat proficiency training to ensure they are postured and prepared to execute operations at sea, from the sea and ashore.
While operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, the MEU/ARG offers offshore options to deter, influence and win in an era of uncertainty. Along with regional partners, this Navy/Marine Corps team supports combatant commanders in maintaining regional maritime security and stability.