Story by Spc. Ryan Scott, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Hundreds of people crowded into the main courtyard of the Joint Operations Center at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2013, to attend a ceremony remembering the tragic events of this day 12 years ago.
U.S. sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines were joined by their Afghan and coalition counterparts in remembering the events of this day, 12 years ago, that led to invasion of this country, the crippling of the al-Qaida network that perpetrated the attack and the removal of the Taliban regime who supported them.
“Over the last 12 years the United States and members of the International Community have invested much blood and treasure to hold accountable those who planned, supported and attacked us and to bring stability to Afghanistan so that it is no longer a safe haven for transnational terrorists,” said Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force 101.
Acting as the focal point of the courtyard on Bagram, amidst flags representing each coalition nation, stands a beam from the World Trade Center inscribed simply with, “WTC 91101.”
Donated by residents of the Breezy Point neighborhood in New York , the memorial was unveiled on Bagram, Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, and stands as a reminder of the more than 3,000 Americans who lost their lives that day and to honor the legacy, sacrifice and memory of the 5,311 heroes who have fallen during the global war on terror.
“Our sacrifices are not in vain; Americans sleep soundly knowing we are here, knowing Al Qaida is no longer operationally effective in Afghanistan, and knowing the Afghans are taking the lead for the security of their country to gain peace and a better future for all,” said McConville.
While the International Security Assistance Force makes preparations to end combat operations in 2014, coalition service members continue to perform daily acts of heroism throughout the country.
“During the last twelve years, the horrific acts of a few have been surpassed by the countless selfless acts of many,” said Master Sgt. Stephanie Carl, an operations noncommissioned officer with CJTF-101. “The legacy of [Sept. 11, 2001] lies in the worldwide embrace of the light for freedom that followed.”
Here in Afghanistan, that light for freedom has brought education, economic growth, improved health care and access to media, information and technology.
“These opportunities and freedoms have been made available for both girls and boys,” said McConville. “They have improved medical care, living conditions, and schools; they can read books; they can celebrate holidays; they can simply be kids and play and have fun in ways that they were not able to before.”
As the Afghan National Security Forces take the lead in maintaining and building on those freedoms, and ISAF forces withdraw from the fight, those in attendence today remembered why they were here.
“Together, as a combined team, away from our homes and families, we understand all too well that freedom is not free,” said Carl.