SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Members of Joint Task Force-Bravo joined representatives of the Honduran Fire Department here Sept. 9 to honor the 447 first responders who lost their lives in the service of others as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the formal remembrance ceremony began, more than 200 service members met in JTF-Bravo's Joint Security Forces compound and marched in a silent parade to the 612th Air Base Squadron's fire department.
Following the silent parade, U.S. Army Col. Brian Hughes, JTF-Bravo commander, shared his thoughts about the day that forever changed the people of the U.S. and, particularly, the armed forces.
“On that early fall morning, the United States endured a ferocious blow; a blow that reeked of cowardice, a blow that required immediate action. The New York Police and Fire Departments, along with federal, state and municipal employees of all first responder organizations in New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania bravely answered the first call to action,” Hughes said. “Through brilliant interagency collaboration, the United States intelligence and law enforcement communities swiftly identified who was responsible for this terrible act and with skillful diplomatic engagements, a strong and unbreakable coalition was formed, and further action was taken.”
“It took a long time, but those directly responsible for the tragic events that unfolded on September eleventh had justice served upon them,” Hughes continued. “Our military has grown exponentially in capability and experience since that day. Our service members are smarter, stronger and more skilled with their weapons and their minds than ever before. But the fight is not over, and many of you will return to the battlefield upon completion of this assignment... You all have answered the call and I hope you can take some time on September eleventh to remember those who also answered the call and are no longer with us.”
After Hughes' speech, members of JSF, 612th ABS Fire Emergency Services, and the JTF-Bravo Medical Element folded an American flag, laid it to rest on the ceremony's emergency services monument, and rendered a salute to the fallen heroes.
To close the ceremony, a Fire Emergency Services member performed the striking of the “four fives,” which consists of five bell strikes, repeated in four series. The custom is a fire service tradition which dates back to the 1800's, and is a form of rendering final honors to departed comrades.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyeonee Russell, 612th ABS firefighter, said he was in fourth grade at the time and didn't fully understand the severity of what was happening until he saw his uncle, who was an Army Ranger, packing his bags to leave. Russell also said he's participated in a 9/11 remembrance ceremony every year since he joined the military as his way to honor those who lost their lives on that fateful day 15 years ago.
“Everything that happened that day showed America's heart, and I actually have met a firefighter who was at ground zero that day,” Russell said. “I hugged him, shook his hand and told him I will always try my best to emulate him and all of the firefighters who were there.”