Speakers at a 9/11 20th anniversary commemoration ceremony in Denison on Saturday encouraged people to remember the fallen not just on the anniversary but at other times, to keep alive the legacy of the fallen.
Monica Walley, library director of Norelius Community Library in Denison, where the ceremony took place, spoke about the memories of 9/11 that all shared – the unnerving, unsettling events and the thoughts of the devastating loss of life.
But she also recalled another memory of 9/11 – the unity that resulted in the United States.
“That was incredible to me,” said Walley, a retired member of the U.S. Navy. “Everyone wanted to fly the flag. The companies couldn’t keep up with the demand. We were all Americans unified that day, a house undivided regardless of race or creed. And we were united against an enemy, a common foe.
“The attack in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania was an attack on all of us,” she continued. “I remember the men and women in uniform, the brothers and sisters, comrades in arms. I wore the uniform at that time in my career in the service. We all served with resolve. We all sacrificed with resolve. Many gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting our freedoms because of their resolve.”
Aaron L. Hoffman, who served 29 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and was deployed a number of times to combat zones, called his address “A Call to Remember.”
He said events like “Remember the Fallen” are important because they remind us not just of the shock of the moment but they remind us of other important things that we should remember.
“Time dulls our memory and it dulls our senses and it’s important that we don’t forget the lessons that we learned, we don’t forget the sacrifices of those at the time and we don’t forget the sacrifices of those that followed, and most importantly, we don’t forget the why,” said Hoffman. “Why it happened, why it changed events in the country, why it changed decisions and the direction of our country, and most importantly why it changed who we are today.”
Hoffman spoke about the men and women who, on a daily basis, work behind the scenes to find those who would harm the United States and its people.
“And the vast majority of the time, you’re not going to hear it on the news and you’re not going to know about it, but on a daily basis we are removing threats to this great country of ours,” Hoffman said. “So generally, what have these men and women done? They served. They took on a responsibility. They left their families and their loved ones. They deployed overseas. They endured hardship. They endured injury, both physically and mentally. And they lost friends. And the ones that we recognize today, they gave the ultimate sacrifice for their county; they lost their lives.
Hoffman talked about the number of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For Iowa, our fallen is 98; 85 of them happened overseas and 13 were stateside, but even in the stateside numbers, the hidden killer of war was there, unfortunately, suicide. Most were in the Army and in the Marine Corps, and most were male, but there were several females,” he said.
He continued that each of the fallen has a story – a story of their life, their past, their reasons for serving, the actions they took and their hopes and their dreams.
Hoffman spoke about two from Crawford County who are among the fallen in The War on Terrorism.
SGT Casey Byers, of Schleswig, was on a patrol in 2005 searching for roadside bombs when one exploded and killed him. He wasn’t married at the time but he had an infant daughter named Haley.
SSG James Justice, of Manilla, served in Afghanistan. He was killed while on a rescue mission to save two pilots from a downed helicopter. He left behind a wife and a daughter.
Hoffman listed a person recently added to Iowa’s roll call of the fallen - 23-year-old CPL Daegan William-Tyeler Page. He died along with 12 other service members when a suicide bomber detonated near the gate at the Kabul airport while marines were trying to evacuate people from Afghanistan.
“Daegan joined the Marine Corps right after graduating high school. He enjoyed playing hockey, hunting and he loved being outdoors. He was an avid animal lover and had a really soft spot for dogs. He was looking forward to coming home and he planned to get out of the Marine Corps and join a local trade school,” said Hoffman. “So each face that you see over here on the display, every name that you’re going to hear during the roll call, they all have similar stories.”
He pointed to the why that he referred to at the beginning of his address.
“I could say many things here on the why but I think Ronald Regan said it best when he indicated that freedom isn’t free. He said freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in their bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom that we know is to fight for it, to protect it and to defend it,” Hoffman said.
“9/11 showed in a real violent and unimaginable way that there are elements in this world that don’t hold our values. They reject our ideals and they are in direct conflict to our freedom and our way of life. We must fight for our freedom and we must sacrifice for it. Each name that’s read today in the roll call has their own personal why they served but ultimately as we read in the scriptures, greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Hoffman said he named his comments “A Call to Remember” because he want to put out the call to remember, not just during the 9/11 commemoration and not just on Memorial Day but every so often to remember the men and women who serve and those who have fallen.
“Because without memory there is no culture. Without memory there is no civilization, no society, there is no future. Without memory these fallen have no voice and no story,” Hoffman continued. “To remember is to honor the ultimate sacrifice that millions have paid so that future generations can be free. To remember impacts dignity, the sacrifices made and the ones that made it. To remember reflects our values, the ideals that guide us. And to remember creates legacy. These men and women no longer have a voice. They only exist in our memories, and as long as they are not forgotten they tell their story, the who, the what and the why. But most of all I think their legacy is an appeal to others. It’s a beacon call for others to serve, to take up that responsibility, as Reagan said, generation after generation must fight for, defend and protect our freedom.”