US military in Europe marks 15th anniversary of 9/11 attacks
By DAN STOUTAMIRE AND MICHAEL DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 9, 2016
Officers and enlisted laid wreaths and held a moment of silence at garrisons in Europe to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
In Wiesbaden, Germany, home to U.S. Army Europe, garrison commander Col. Todd Fish recalled that day 15 years ago as a moment that changed America.
“I will remember that day as a reminder of the resilient American spirit,” he said. ”We honor and remember those lost, and we also recognize that on that date, a date which once held no special meaning to us, our country and a generation of Americans were changed in an instant.”
Following Fish’s remarks at Veterans Park on Clay Kaserne, the somber notes of “Amazing Grace” were played on bagpipes, followed by a minute’s silence.
In the United Kingdom, airmen at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall also marked the anniversary. They participated in a 9/11 Moving Tribute at RAF Lakenheath hosted by Team RWB and 48th Force Support Squadron. For 9 hours and 11 minutes airmen and civilians volunteered to run with an American flag for a 30 to 60 minute duration around the track in remembrance of the 9/11 attacks.
The 9/11 remembrance memorial at RAF Mildenhall was hosted by the 48th Fighter Wing and 100th Air Refueling Wing. RAF Lakenheath Fire Chief Steven Kelly spoke about the heroic sacrifices 15 years ago during the attacks, a fire bell was rung 15 times followed by the playing of taps and a gun salute.
At the U.S. Army training grounds in Grafenwoehr, Germany, the garrison’s top leaders and representatives from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, delivered flowered wreaths to the base of a memorial with 19 names etched on it.
Those are the names of members of the 172nd Infantry Brigade who were killed in action during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The unit, which once called Grafenwoehr home, is long gone, having been inactivated in 2013. The memorial to those men still remains, as does the weight of their sacrifice.
The 9/11 attacks “changed the military, changed our culture, changed kind of our way of life that we see on a regular basis, not just for the United States, but for everybody,” said U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Todd. “It’s looking at that sacrifice and understanding there is still resolve and there is still commitment. We don’t ever want to forget.”
Other soldiers, largely enlisted men like those found on the memorial, were also in attendance. Some, like Staff Sgt. Ryan Tucker and Sgt. Stephen Kiss with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, said the attacks on Sept. 11 had a profound impact on their decision to enlist.
“My grandfather served in the 82nd, he was a paratrooper before me, so I kind of had myself geared towards what I wanted to do already,” said Kiss, who joined the Army in 2009. “Those attacks put that more in motion for me.”
The Army already has soldiers too young to really remember the 9/11 attacks. In just a few years more fresh recruits, who were born into a world without the Twin Towers, will be enlisting.
Despite the ever-broadening expanse of time since the attacks, some, like James Joyce, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post at Grafenwoehr, hope the anniversary continues to be officially marked and the events of that day remembered well into the future.
“We lost a lot of people, military and civilians alike. We’ll never forget, never,” Joyce said. “As long as there is one of us alive, we’ll never forget.”