Eleven years have passed since that fateful September morning in 2001 when our world, as we knew it, was torn asunder. For many Americans, September 11, 2001 stands as a turning point; a moment in time where we were changed forever. For some, it was a call to duty, for others a call back to duty. It was a time when hearts swelled with grief, compassion, and pride. It was a time of growing up; of setting childish self-satisfaction and complacency aside.
Americans 30 years old and older will remember when going to the airport was cause for celebration; when family members could escort each other to the departure gate and stand at the window, nose pressed to the glass, waiting and watching until the plane took off and flew out of sight. My son, 20 years old now, is part of the last group of young people old enough to be cognizant of what happened; of what a world pre-September 11 was like.
Whether or not one currently agrees with the on-going war on terror, those who support the troops know how diligently they have endeavored to complete their mission. Families with a loved one serving in the military understand the hardships that go along with military service during a time of conflict and war. Gold Star Mothers understand what ultimate sacrifice for your country means.
Since the War on Terror began there have been 4,422 U.S. military casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 19, 2003 until August 31, 2010; and 2,080 U.S. military casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and other locations. In Operation New Dawn, from September 01, 2010 to December 31, 2011, there were 66 U.S. military casualties; making a total loss of 6,568 American military men and women, according to the website run by TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).
As with every other war, the 1st Infantry Division has been active on the frontlines of the War on Terror. From the 3rd (Duke) Brigade, 1–63 Armor, which deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq from their base in Rose Barracks, Germany in 2003; and the 1st (Devil) Brigade, 1st Infantry Division which deployed from Fort Riley, Kansas in September 2003 to provide support to the 82nd Airborne Division in the city of Ramadi, Iraq; to the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, which deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in November 2010 in an advise and assist role as part of Operation New Dawn; and the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1–16 IN (CAB) and 4-4 CAV, which deployed to Afghanistan in the winter of 2011; the Big Red One has been there fighting for freedom.
The 1st Infantry Division has not been shielded from loss. From Memorial Day 2011 to Memorial Day 2012, the Big Red One has lost 46 soldiers downrange, according to Brigadier General Donald MacWillie, the post Senior Commander at Fort Riley, who spoke at the Memorial Day commemoration this year.
On this day, which we remember with deep sadness, but have come together to reclaim as Patriot Day, we pay homage to all the Americans, native and immigrant, who swore an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America and to protect and preserve our freedom as a direct result of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
As we go about our lives 11 years later, let us also remember that the work is far from done. Not only do we still have our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers deployed on our behalf; but we also have many thousand wounded warriors back home, or trying to get back home, who bare the physical and emotional wounds of battle. They will need our help and support now more than ever.