Event organizers and guest speakers pose in front of the flags
Hundreds honor fallen at 9/11 memorial event
With more than 6,500 American flags flying at Shippensburg University today (Sept. 11), hundreds of people honored the men and women who gave their lives in defense of the U.S. and freedom during the war on terror.
Under a bright blue sky that belied the solemnness of the event, veterans, current service personnel, members of the campus and the Shippensburg community — everyday Americans all — joined to remember and thank those whose sacrifice keeps us safe and free.
The 2010 September 11th Memorial Event was sponsored by the university’s 9-month-old chapter of Student Veterans of America (SVA). The university has between 300 and 400 students who are veterans.
Guest speakers talked of honor, of service, of duty, but most of all they talked about the men and women who serve and our nation’s need to support — and remember — all our veterans.
Major Gen. Gregg F. Martin, commandant of the United States Army War College, thanked those in attendance noting “This (event) represents to me what America is all about, a grassroots effort.”
He said the flags that graced the center of campus “remind us of the power of patriotism, and they remind us of the patriots who have given their lives for their country. I believe it is our duty to remember those who died in service. If we value our life, we must value their death.”
Martin praised members of the military because our nation relies “on those who seek to do the right thing. As long as there is evil, we rely on men and women willing to risk their lives for ours. We sleep soundly when rough men — and woman — stand ready in the night to face those who would do us harm.”
Since 2003, according to Martin, “more than one million Americans in uniform have served in Iraq — a war zone with no safe havens and no front lines. When violence broke our across Iraq, insurgents and extremists targeted indiscriminately — Iraqis, Americans and coalition forces, soldiers, police and innocent children.” It was a level of violence and cruelty, he said, that he could not believe was possible.
Despite those challenges, our service men and woman have made great achievements. “An amazing thing about our service members is what they have done for people they don’t even know. They have been equally engaged in projects for children, and education, and justice.”
He said the nation should not underestimate the extremists’ campaign and remember that the war to combat terrorism and extremism is not over. “The country we love was changed by the attack of Sept. 11, 2011. It is up to each of us to make sense of the changes, to honor the first responders who are there for us every day at home, and to honor the service and sacrifice of those in uniform. If we stand together, vigilant and strong in service to one another, then the enemy at the gate has lost. Let us persevere. And let us not forget.”
He was introduced by Cumberland County Commissioner Barbara Cross, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and a Shippensburg University alumna. She compared the Sept. 11 attack with the attack on Pearl Harbor noting that our and its citizens need to show the same courage, strength and faith now that the nation showed after Pearl Harbor.
She told about changes in our nation since 9/11, large ones like air travel regulations and smaller ones like her church returning to its tradition of singing “America.”
Cross recognized members of the university ROTC battalion and noted that “The events of Sept 11th have called upon the next Greatest generation of Americans to step up and stand for freedom.” She also said she recently watched as her 19-year-old nephew graduated from Army Basic Training following in the footsteps of so many of his family.
Another Shippensburg alumnus, James F. Powers Jr., Pennsylvania’s Director of Homeland Security, said that even though we tend to overanalyze events and look to affix blame, “We’ll also look at the heroic acts our first responders and armed forces have performed as a result of this tragic day and we’ll conclude that somehow, some way, and by some unwritten plan, everyone pulled together to get done what had to be done – that is also our nature.”
He said that forming and sustaining this great country was not predicated on a single battle but rather one, long, never-ending campaign comprised of many battles. While lives were lost in those battles, those deaths we not in vain as “America’s spirit can never be extinguished,” he said. “Sadly, there will be other enemies of our way of life that will underestimate our spirit and ability to rally, concentrate our power and resolve the situation – at whatever cost is involved.
“In our nation’s short history, many have underestimated our desire to sustain this freedom we enjoy – but none have succeeded. Each time we face adversity, we become more creative in our approaches to resolve the problem. And of course, each catastrophic incident provides us with yet another chance to become stronger.
The challenges our nation has faced since 2001, he said, have shown two simple truths: The American spirit can neither be dampened nor extinguished, and national, state, county and municipality security is a team effort.”
He called everyone at the event a patriot noting, “No one knows when they will be called to play their part as a patriot but we do know that we will ultimately prevail.”
Dr. Denny Terrell, Shippensburg University’s vice president for administration and finance and a retired Air Force brigadier general, said due to 9/11 “A new generation of Americans learned what earlier ones had known: freedom exists only if it is cherished and protected. This nation has been blessed from its birth with young men and women who have been willing to stand up to protect her. That tradition continues today.”
She spoke of Nate DeTample, who was a 19-year-old freshman at Shippensburg University when he was called to duty with the Pennsylvania National Guard and was deployed to Iraq. Shortly after his arrival in 2005, he and several fellow soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb.
“Make no mistake,” she said, “Nate understood what he was doing. When asked why he became a member the Red Raider Battalion of the University’s Army ROTC, he said it was because his dream was to serve his country. His dream continues to live in the brave hearts of the young men and women in our ROTC program it is a legacy in which we take great pride.”
Terrell said the terrorists were mistaken in their judgments about the U.S. “The terrorists who struck on 9/11 had to believe that they were signaling the death knell for this country — a place that represents everything they hate and that we hold dear. There were wrong. What we lost that day was a sense of innocence, a belief that America’s principles were so right that no one would dare question them. What we gained was a call to rededicate ourselves to this way of life.
“As Americans, each of us has a responsibility to serve this nation, to give something back in exchange for what we have been given and to ensure that we are able to pass on to the next generation the incredible gift that is America.”
Service to our nation can take many forms, she said, but we need to remember and support our veterans and their families. “As Nate instinctively knew, service to our nation truly matters because our American ideals and the American people are worth all the dedication and sacrifice required for their defense. I ask each one of you to remember Nate and all of our fallen heroes, not just today, but every day. Rededicate yourself to preserving and protecting this great land of freedom and opportunity. Do not let the sacrifices of all those whose flags are here today be forgotten. They have died for us, their fellow citizens. Let us live every day honoring that supreme sacrifice.”
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