By Army Lt. Col. Paul Fanning
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 11, 2008 - Victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were remembered in an emotional ceremony at Camp Phoenix here today. The ceremony began at 5:16 p.m. local time with the sounding of a siren from the Camp Phoenix fire truck to match the time in New York City when the first plane struck the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Afghanistan time is eight and a half hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast.
The formation of troops in Patriot Square included soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and the Camp Phoenix-based French and Romanian detachments of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix.
The task force is led by the New York National Guard's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which had many of its soldiers serve at the World Trade Center site immediately following the attacks and has since deployed hundreds of troops for homeland defense missions and for combat service in Iraq. They now serve in Afghanistan as trainers and mentors for the Afghan national security forces.
Today's ceremony was especially poignant to the citizen-soldiers of the 27th because for many, the service that began at Ground Zero has now come full-circle to the land from which the terrorists plotted and then launched their attacks.
"Seven years later, we are left with vivid memories that include sorrow, anger and pride in the courage and determination shown by ordinary people and especially by emergency responders who sacrificed themselves for others," Army Col. Brian K. Balfe, commander of CJTF Phoenix and New York's 27th IBCT, said.
"The images of that day will never leave us. But what also stands out is what we discovered about ourselves. In the face of so much terror, so many Americans rose above their fears. Their call to duty that day was to risk their own lives, to save others," he said.
Army Maj. Dennis Bates, a volunteer fireman from Rochester, N.Y., now serving at Camp Phoenix, paid tribute to the firefighters who responded to the terror attacks.
"The fire service is made up of a unique group of individuals. It takes a special person to go running into a burning building when everyone else is running out," he said. "It is not easy for people to understand and not easy for us to explain. It is something we are, not something we do."
Five serving members of the New York National Guard were lost when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, including three soldiers and two airmen. They were firemen, police officers, emergency services personnel, a security guard and an employee of Windows on the World restaurant.
New York National Guard soldiers served for months in New York City at Ground Zero, bridges, tunnels, train stations and airports. They also provided security at nuclear power plants and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, 12 soldiers took their service oath, having recently re-enlisted in the National Guard.
(Army Lt. Col. Paul Fanning serves in the Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix Public Affairs Office.)