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It was a clear Tuesday morning, a day that would scar America forever. Nineteen men hijacked four U.S. commercial airplanes, and the attacks that followed resulted in the death and injury of thousands of Americans. September 11th remains a day of reflection for Americans, and service members currently deployed in the Middle East honored the memory of those affected by gathering for a Memorial Ruck March Sept. 11, 2017.
Senior Airmen Anthony Carlson and Kenneth Winzer organized the event and invited service members in Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command to participate. Participants gathered on the morning of the 11th and marched five miles while recounting personal memories about where they were during 9/11. Some service members discussed how the attack impacted their decision to serve in the military and how it shaped their view on what service to one’s country truly means.
“This morning helped us understand unity and what makes us Marines,” said 1st Sgt. Gilbert Oshana, a New York native with the Ground Combat Element, SPMAGTF-CR-CC.
As they marched, Oshana explained that events like the Memorial Ruck March serve as a reminder of how Americans set aside their differences following the attack and came together as a country to fight against a common enemy.
“When I enlisted it wasn’t a time of war,” recounted Oshana. “I was a drill instructor in 2004, and my recruits were men that had enlisted because of the events that happened in 2001. It was something I admired about every single one of them.”
After finishing the five mile march, the service members gathered for a ceremony where senior service members were able to share their memories of 9/11 with junior Marines, Sailors and Airmen.
“I was very humbled to be able to speak in the ceremony,” said Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Hall, senior enlisted leader, medical regulating team, Command Element, SPMAGTF-CR-CC. “America changed on Sept. 11, 2001.”
Hall revealed that 9/11 was the reason he enlisted in the Navy. During the ceremony Hall recounted his drive to work, noting the general tension around him before he walked into work and saw the second plane hitting the tower on the television.
“It was clear that the country was under attack,” said Hall. “It was tragic to see innocent people being used as a weapon against their own country.”
It’s been sixteen years since the attack, and many junior enlisted and officers lack a direct connection to the tragic event - which is why Hall and Oshana believe that events like the Memorial Ruck March are important.
“As we go forward into the future, many teenagers now were not alive for 9/11 and they will only hear about it from school and the stories we tell,” said Oshana.
“Terrorism is an ideology that hasn’t been defeated and it is something our younger generations are learning to fight against,” said Hall.