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SAN DIEGO – Dakota Meyer was in 8th grade art class on Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t even know what the World Trade Center was, he said Wednesday.

But the day forever “changed the world, [and] it changed the way we live,” said Meyer, who in 2011 became the first living Marine in 38 years to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Meyer was the guest of honor Wednesday at the 9/11 memorial evening colors ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The former sergeant was introduced to the large crowd as “the living embodiment of (Marine Corps) core values of honor, courage and commitment.”

From San Diego to Naples, Italy, servicememebers took time out Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States 12 years ago.

While thousands were lost on 9/11, Meyer said he also looks at it as a day of hope.

Jay Vargas and Robert Modrzejewki, retired Marine colonels who were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions in Vietnam, also attended the ceremony.

Vargas said Americans should always be thankful for all our troops, because “they’re the VIPs of America.”

Vargas remembers hearing about the 9/11 attacks on the radio at a meeting with other veterans, and rushing home to hear more about what was happening. Though he retired in 1993 after 30 years in the Marine Corps, he said he would have joined again that day if the commandant had called.

“It’s a moment that we’ll never forget in America,” Vargas said.

The Miramar ceremony also honored Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, Marines who were killed Sept. 15, 2012, when they fought back against more than a dozen armed insurgents who attacked Camp Bastion, wounding several Marines and destroying six Harrier jump-jets.

Earlier Wednesday, a storm over Naval Support Activity Naples abated as sailors, civilians and others took time to bow their heads, stand at attention, raise the flags and offer moments of silence honoring memories of those who died Sept. 11, 2001, or for those who have since gone to battles in the wars following the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon.

“Some people wonder all their lives whether they’ve made a difference. Those of us in uniform” never have to wonder, Navy Capt. Scott Gray told a small group of mostly military personnel who mustered in Naples for the somber annual observance.

With three swift yanks of its white cord by Naples’ Fire Chief Roland Hesmondhalgh, a symbolic bell rang, honoring the roughly 3,000 who perished, including 411 firefighters, police and emergency medical technicians who died in the attack on the World Trade Center.

Sandra Jontz in Naples contributed to this report.

hlad.jennifer@stripes.comTwitter: @jhlad

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