Pentagon 9-11 Memorial Dedication: Thoughtful thoughts

Most writers and journalists rushed to file their stories and photos yesterday while the fire was still hot, and readers or viewers were being inundated by September 11-related stories.

However, I decided to wait till today to share my thoughts. I figured the several-hour delay would allow my mixture of emotions and thoughts to congeal into a nice “soup”, which I could offer up today to the masses–the same people who may have already moved on to other fare offered by the commercial news outlets; the impending hurricane, political candidates, and the latest on Britney’s musical comeback, to name a few.

Too bad.

I say this because the observances, commemorations, and dedications which took place yesterday across the nation and throughout the world, should never be relegated to a “news spot” or a tagline.

The thousands who perished during the attacks of September 11, 2001, and indeed the thousands more in uniform who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms before and after that infamous date deserve more. Much more.

Former Defense Secretary, Don Rumsfeld, speaking at the Pentagon’s 9/11 Memorial said it best: “… Never forget how this long struggle began and never forget those who fell first.”

While the 184 souls who perished in the attack on the Pentagon are forever immortalized in a simple yet elegant memorial of natural and man-made materials fronting the very building where American Airlines Flight 77 pierced the rings of this country’s most important seat of military might, other memorials remain unfinished.

There is still a temporary memorial dedicated to those who died in a cornfield in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, when Flight 93 crashed there. It was erected mostly by visitors and local residents, while the Flight 93 National Memorial Advisory Commission, formed in 2003, continues to develop a permanent memorial.

At the World Trade Center site, where more than 3,000 people died seven years ago, nothing exists except for what Manhattan residents and the New York Times refer to as “The Hole“. Construction delays on the new World Trade Center building has gone through several revisions, and the plans for an on-site memorial moves slowly, while other commissions and panels debate the breadth and scope of the memorial and its cost.

So the Pentagon’s Memorial will have to serve as the first–and for now, only–permanent place of solace and remembrance for a nation which still longs for healing. The reason we build memorials is not for the dead–they are so the living can find peace and hope–which is intrinsically linked to healing our collective wounds. The key being to heal, but not forget.

At this memorial, in the shadow of the newly-refurbished Pentagon, are 184 polished steel benches. In and amongst the maple trees, the benches are arranged on a gravel field, each with their own lighted reflecting pool, and inscribed with a name of each of the victims who perished in the attack there seven years ago. This place will stand with the many other national monuments of our nation’s capital as yet another testiment to sacrifices laid down by Americans.

This memorial may serve as a place where survivors and family members from far and wide may visit to heal. I hope in due time the other memorials are built to help a nation heal, and to provide their citizens with a place of solace and hope. And healing.

Kudos to the Pentagon Memorial Fund, for their decisive action and thoughtful consideration, and to its Chairman, James J. Laychak, who lost dear friends and his older brother, David W. Laychak, in the attack on the Pentagon. Maybe their accomplishment will serve as an example for other groups to follow.

And to those Americans who have turned their attention back to the 2008 political campaign, or to rising gas prices as a result of Hurricane Ike, or Jessica Simpson’s new country music career, please don’t forget the gravity of each and every September 11 anniversary. It is a chance for our nation to remember, to heal and to grow.

In his closing remarks yesterday, Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “The spirit of those who perished here live on, in us.”

I’d like to think that the “us” he was referring to was all of us.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
New Media NCOIC, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Airmen provide Hurricane relief

UPDATE: Watch a news clip from within the Hunters.

Airmen are continually assisting more in the roles of aeromedical evacuation of patients on the Gulf Coast. This role was important during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita now with Gustav and Ike. Typically, the Air National Guard from surrounding states makes these missions happen.

Closely on the heels of supporting FEMA efforts during Hurricane Gustav, the Air Force Hurricane Hunters out of Keesler AFB, Ms. are performing reconnaissance in tracking Hurricane Ike. The Air Force plays a significant role in humanitarian efforts, disaster relief for emergency evacuations, forward disaster area aid, and in storm tracking. Newsvine story, Link here.
Check out the Hurricane Hunter story on NPR here.
For constant updates on Hurricane Ike relief supports and how the U.S. Air Force helps, link here.

Posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

Tanker contract cancelled

My first assignment was Fairchild AFB, home of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing and KC-135 stratotankers. I had the opportunity to fly with the crews there a dozen or so times and witness the amazing abilities to “pass gas” at thousands of feet above the globe and at hundreds of miles per hour. DOD announced yesterday that the aerial refueling tanker program, an effort to replace the aging KC-135 fleet, would hold off until the next Presidential administration. The Air Force said: “The Air Force supports Secretary Gates‘ decision to withdraw the RFP and give an incoming administration a clean start. We look forward to working with OSD to obtain a tanker for the warfighter.”

Posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

Airmen prepare for meeting of the minds

Thousands of Airmen from around the world converge here next week for the annual non-profit Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference. Expect blogs right here about speakers including Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

We’ll also blog on presentations from Dr. Neil Daswani of Google who will address emerging Cyber-threats on the Web and Mr. Michael Vickers, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities, known for (think Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson’s War) the operation that drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan. He’ll address Air Force challenges, QDR and the war on terrorism.

Air Force: http://www.af.mil/
Instant Air Force coverage: http://www.airforcelive.blogspot.com/
AFA: http://www.afa.org/

Posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

Welcome to Air Force Live

Air Force Live is the blog of the Air Force Public Affairs Agency’s New Media Team. Because of the predominance of new media overtaking traditional news sources, Public Affairs decided to engage in the conversation–the result is the New Media and Emerging Technology Team. The Team is charged with forwarding the U.S. Air Force’s Web 2.0 presence. That goal is being accomplished through the use of some common and popular Web 2.0 applications, such as Facebook, YouTube, social bookmarking, and now, blogging.

Regardless of whether you call it Web 2.0, new media, social media, or digital media, the goal is the same for any organization trying to present news and tell a story. It needs to be convergent, immediate, and conversational. The New Media Team welcomes your comments and looks forward to collaborating with others. We will post links to our social networks shortly. Be prepared to see news in a new way from the U.S. Air Force.

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