SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- --
Sixteen years ago, our country was shaken to its core on Sept. 11, 2001. Heartbreaking 9/11 tragedies in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania fundamentally changed all American lives for the foreseeable future. The World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and Shanksville, Penn., are inextricably linked to the 2,977 people who lost their lives that fateful day.
The U.S. stands firm as a beacon of freedom and democracy for this world. America was attacked for holding that beacon high for all to see; and our adversaries continue their quest to extinguish this flame by any means available. Our nation’s military keeps the torch lit by standing in resolute opposition to any individual or group threatening the founding principles of freedom and democracy outlined in our Constitution.
During this time of 9/11 commemoration and Patriot Day celebration, reflect on why you serve.
I personally did not have a full appreciation for what military service meant when I enlisted at the Harrisburg, Penn. Military Entrance Processing Station in 1989. My goal at the time was to follow a respected older cousin’s path to a college degree in exchange for my four years of military service. In all honesty, I was not initially driven by the prospect of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States or any unique sense of patriotic duty. I viewed the military as a noble, respectable occupation, but simply did not appropriately connect my imminent military service to the Constitution at all.
I unconsciously memorized the Constitution’s Preamble through osmosis, watching School House Rock on Saturday mornings. However, graduating from technical training as a dental technician just prior to onset the Gulf War changed my perspective for the better. I never envisioned I would be charged with identifying remains of our fallen Gulf War heroes as an 18-year-old Airman basic, then again as a 30-year-old Second Lieutenant in the aftermath of the 9/11 Pentagon attack. Taking dental radiographs for hundreds of these great Americans crystalized the importance of what we do and why we do it.
The freedoms we all enjoy come at dramatic cost to individuals who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, an oath you have most likely taken as well. Some have lost their lives without even a cursory understanding of the document that details our primary laws of government, lays out the three chief branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) and their jurisdictions, along with basic rights of citizens to include the rights to a fair trial, freedom of religion, press and expression. The people I helped identify often fought and died in defense of what is represented in this document. Everyone who has taken a military oath has affirmed they are ready and willing to do the same.
We celebrate Patriot Day September 11th each year to honor the fallen, while holding dear to the freedoms we fought for in the past, that we continue to enjoy today, and we will undoubtedly maintain in the future, because of the commitment of our military. Given my youth and admitted naivete, I may not have fully understood the oath’s importance 28 years ago. However, my subsequent years in service to our country have firmly established the reasons why I am proud to serve with every one of my brothers and sisters in the profession of arms -- military, civilian and contractor alike. The tragic events of 9/11 are a reminder to all of us to reflect on why we serve, so I hope you spent some time this past Patriot Day to reflect on those beliefs.