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Lest we forget

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Seventeen years ago our nation experienced one of the most tragic days in its existence. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon changed the country forever.

Although the 17th anniversary of Sept. 11 was a few weeks ago, it is important to remember the momentous day that still drives our day-to-day operations.

I remember that day so vividly. At the time of the attacks, I was the Inspector General for the 21st Space Wing. The wing was in the middle of the Air Force Space Command Unit Effectiveness Inspection. On that specific day the wing was starting the beginning of the Operational Readiness Inspection where they would demonstrate their ability to respond to different crisis exercise events. The wing started the day in exercise-mode to demonstrate their warfighting skills, but by the time the second aircraft crashed into the South Tower, the base was well on its way to implementing FPCON Delta measures.

Every member of the wing knew their respective duties and executed their duties with exactness and precision. Security Forces, in their full battle gear, protected the base, Civil Engineers fully implemented the wing barrier plan and relocated base assets to protect the key base facilities, the Force Support Squadron and Medical Group went the extra mile to provide the extra care for 24-hour operations, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station took all necessary steps to protect the vital communication node.

There were no questions on why: everyone knew what had to be done and they did it. I do not think anyone on that fateful date would realize the full impact the attack would have on our military and on our nation. It brought our nation together as one and was the beginning a high operations tempo which has not stopped.

Seventeen years ago we went to war, and 17 years later our daily operations are still fueled by that fatal day. Operations tempos continue to be high and our Airmen are feeling the stress of increased tasks, but we must not forget the courage and sacrifices made from Americans of all walks of life.

While we all took pause and remembered those we lost, we should not just remember 9/11 one day a year. Sept. 11 is part of our history and has shaped the military culture we know today.

The next time you are feeling stressed or that your mission doesn’t matter, remember those who helplessly sat on a plane anticipating their fate. Remember those who ran into burning buildings to save fellow Americans. Remember those who bravely overtook the hijackers and fought to their deaths, and remember those who will never see their loved ones again. These individuals are why we continue to push forward today and they serve as a steadfast reminder: we must always be ready.

We will always remember September 11, 2011 and must never forget.