By: Vanessa Marquette, Web Specialist II at the IVMF at Syracuse University
Today marks 15 years since the tragic events of 9/11 occurred. It has been 15 years of honoring the fallen from that day and those who have sacrificed for us since then. This day impacted everyone differently, but one thing we all had in common was our American pride.
Everyone in America remembers exactly where they were that day. In my case, I was in my seventh grade social studies class when I heard the heartbreaking news. Our principal made a sudden announcement that all after school activities were canceled. As students, we were confused since there was no inclement weather. That is when our teacher told us what happened, barely able to keep his emotions together to explain in detail. I couldn’t believe it.
Our nation discovered immense courage and countless heroes that day. Our veterans, service members, firefighters, law enforcement, service dogs like Bretagne and Roselle, and many other first responders gave everything in attempt to save lives.
New York City has a special place in my heart. My dad was born and raised in Manhattan. My mom’s Air Force Reserve unit was located at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. My family visited the city frequently, and the World Trade Center was always a favorite. The unforgettable view from the observation deck and the excitement of the virtual helicopter tour of the city are two of my fondest memories.
Following 9/11, my mom, a now retired lieutenant colonel, deployed to Southwest Asia with only 48 hours of notice. She served as the Deputy Commander of the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group as part of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. The mission of her unit was comprehensive and included the stabilization of casualties while preparing them for aeromedical evacuation to the next level of care.
My parents are both retired military and had previously deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. I was too young to remember that, so this deployment was a big wake-up call for me.
Military service is in my blood – my grandfathers and great uncle served in World War II. My mom was not the only family member or friend of mine to serve our country after 9/11. Here are a few others:
- My dad – Responsible for developing the leadership skills and mentoring newly selected first sergeants for deployment at Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
- My husband – Served two tours overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- My brothers-in-law – One served four tours – one being 18 months, and the other served two tours in Kuwait and Iraq.
- My friend – Recently deployed to Iraq for six months.
While we must remember the sacrifice of our service members and veterans, we must also think of their families. Deployments and ongoing training events can be stressful to spouses and dependents. While I often don’t discuss this topic because I try to remain positive at all times, I do still struggle with family members and friends being gone sometimes. Just last year when my husband deployed six months before our wedding, we dealt with the untimely death of our 4-year-old rescue dog, Toby, and the still unbelievable death of a good friend, Capt. John Levulis. These were devastating circumstances, but they serve as an example of what military service members and families endure beyond serving overseas. Very often, everyday setbacks are compounded for military personnel and their families because of the nature of their service commitment.
Three years ago I visited the 9/11 memorial with my husband and friends. There are no words for this experience. It is both sad and beautiful, seeing our people laid to rest with great honor and remembrance.
There was a woman placing flowers on specific names on the monument on that day. She said the flowers were in honor of those who had birthdays that day. They each received a rose by their name.
I am proud to now work at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University where I can serve those who have served. Although 9/11 was 15 years ago, we still have service members, law enforcement officials, families, and many others who still sacrifice for us today and need our assistance. The IVMF offers a variety of programs and services to specifically help post-9/11 transitioning service members, veterans with disabilities, military spouses, and their families. It feels great to work with a team that is committed to giving back to the men and women who serve our nation.
As we honor Patriot Day and our National Day of Service and Remembrance, I would like to recognize those of you who may have never been associated with the military and may be unfamiliar with the unique facets of military life. You probably do not realize how much you have contributed to the lives of those who serve our nation and their family members. When my parents were deployed or gone for training, people helped in so many ways. My sister would come home from college to watch me or I would go to her. I was basically another family member in two of my best friends’ homes growing up. Family, friends, coaches, neighbors, and strangers reached out and made a real difference. They made my everyday life as normal as possible. Those who do not choose the military road are vital to our country. They are there when the need arises – serving our nation by supporting our military.
Remember to keep service members, veterans, and their families in your thoughts and prayers, and never forget their sacrifice. Our hearts are with all of the families who lost loved ones in all of the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks. Your bravery does not go unrecognized.
We will never forget the victims who were lost in the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and New York City. We will never forget the heroes who first responded to the tragic sites and the war overseas. We will never forget the veterans, service members, first responders, family members, and all those who sacrifice for us. We will never forget 9/11. God Bless America.