CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Service members from different branches and different countries gathered together on Camp Leatherneck by the flag pole. The low sun cast long shadows across the somber faces as the attendants came to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
A bell was rung to signal a moment of silence to remember the men and women who lost their lives that day 11 years ago.
Sgt. Vincent Laughlin, a motor transport operator with I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward), remembered hearing about the events while attending Willingboro High School in New Jersey.
“They showed what happened after the first plane hit the tower on the news,” said Laughlin. “They started evacuating the school, and I went back home to my house, where my mom sat me down.”
Laughlin was born in Manhattan and moved with his mother to New Jersey when he was 11. He returned every summer to the Bronx. He still recalls watching the city he was raised for the first half of his childhood burning on television.
“The thoughts running through my mind was about all the people,” said Laughlin. “I was hoping that everyone was OK,”
The ceremony started with the raising of the flag to half-staff. Service members from different branches and countries saluted the Stars and Stripes before the flag detail marched off.
“Watching the flag go up during the national anthem gives me a sense of pride,” said Rivera, from New Britain, Conn. “It makes me realize that I’m willing to put my life on the line for everything that flag stands for. Hearing the national anthem, watching the flag raised is a sense of freedom for me.”
Laughlin, now thousands of miles from New York, proudly participated in the ceremony as part of the flag detail.
When Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, commanding general, Regional Command Southwest, took the microphone, his message spoke not only about the tragedy that occurred, but also about hope and a better tomorrow.
“The history of 11 years ago is tragic,” Gurganus said. “The opportunity for a better and safer future is bright.”
“It’s brighter because of you and all who stand beside you and who have gone before you,” Maj. Gen. Gurganus said. “It’s brighter because of the brave men and women of Afghanistan who have answered the call to serve their nation to protect their own people.”