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WADS dedicates 9/11 Memorial

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Western Air Defense Sector held a 9/11 memorial ceremony Sept. 11, at the WADS parade grounds here to commemorate a memorial with three artifacts from the attack sights as a reminder of what happened on that 2001 morning.

On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda militants hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks in the United States. Two of the hijacked planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, a third plane struck the Pentagon in Washington, and a fourth plane crashed in a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field. Tragically, 2,977 Americans lost their lives.

While most Americans watched the horror on live television, Air National Guard members from WADS and the Eastern Air Defense Sector rushed to scramble fighter aircraft from every base they could. They coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration to set up air patrols over most major cities. For approximately 18 months, these Airmen worked 12 hour shifts, seven days a week to ensure the air patrols were managed, according to Col. William Krueger, WADS director of support.

WADS is a joint, bi-national organization which provides air sovereignty, strategic air defense, and airborne counter-drug operations. Its area of responsibility covers more than 2.2 million square miles west of the Mississippi River, to include 2,000 miles along the Mexican border.

"Prior to 9/11, air defense of the United States was focused on external threats. Because of this focus, the Department of Defense's use of radar and radio infrastructure over the majority of the country was minimal," said Maj. Brian Bergren, WADS director of staff. "Since the attacks, we have increased our infrastructure by over 600%. Our mission tasking has increased exponentially."

After his opening remarks, Bergren introduced Col. Pete Stavros, WADS commander.

"I believe what shocked us the most about that morning was not the unthinkably diabolical method in which they used to attack us or the scope and magnitude of the attacks, but it was our way of life that was attacked," said Stavros. "It was our way of life that embraces freedom and democracy [that] rewards hard work and perseverance and yet encourages selflessness and generosity."

His comments gave way to the ceremony's key speaker, Steven Saymon, retired Brooklawn [New Jersey] Police Department police inspector. Saymon was a first responder to the World Trade Center disaster. He is the founder of Philadelphia's 9/11 Memorial "Mending Liberty," the creator of Brooklawn's 9/11 Memorial and has assisted dozens of agencies, military installations and organizations across America in their successful acquisition of 9/11 artifacts from the three disaster sites.

"Welcome to the dedication of America's newest memorial to remember the lives lost 13 years ago today," Saymon said. "Today marks the 13th anniversary of the most tragic day in our nation's history. Each year on this day, American flags are flown at half-mast to honor and commemorate those lives lost.

"There's no better place for me to be than WADS and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the true home of heroes. I am truly humbled and may God bless the United States of America."

Saymon then invited Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, Washington National Guard Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. John Tuohy, Washington Air National Guard commander, Col. David Kumashiro, 62nd Airlift Wing commander and Col Pete Stavros, WADS commander to the stage and presented them with gifts symbolic to the 2001 attacks.

"We took an edged weapon and embedded into the handle of these knives, an actual piece of World Trade Center steel," said Saymon. "In one vial is soil from the Flight 93 crash site area, the other vial contains rubble stones from the damaged portion of the Pentagon."

After the ceremony concluded, the new memorial was unveiled inside the WADS lobby where three artifacts from the terrorist attacks were displayed. The relics included a shard of steel from the World Trade Center in New York, stone and debris from the Flight 93 crash in Pennsylvania, and a large piece of limestone recovered from the Pentagon in Washington.

"We are commemorating a memorial as a reminder of what happened on that 2001 morning so future generations of air defense professionals, who will work in [this building], know what our heritage is and was," said Krueger.