Fort Irwin’s commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks began with a ground-breaking ceremony for a memorial to be built near the garrison’s town center, Sept. 11.
About 30 uniformed Fort Irwin Soldiers, firefighters, and military and civilian security personnel formed two lines behind the ceremony display that included two, five-foot steel beams from the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
According to Fort Irwin’s Director of Emergency Services Mike Butolph, the impetus for the memorial began three years ago, when a Fort Irwin Fire Department fire engineer, Gary Gonzalez, approached his fire chief, Ray Smith, about requesting an artifact from the World Trade Center twin towers for display in the fire department, as other fire departments in the United States were doing.
“All the folks on Fort Irwin wanted to make it a community thing, more centrally located, where the whole community could visit it, not just the fire station,” Smith said.
When the proposed government funding for the memorial couldn’t be realized, advocates for the memorial decided to build and maintain the Army-approved memorial through private funding from interested organizations and individuals.
At the ceremony, Butolph recounted how a firefighter, Jacob Chavez, asked his brother, a partner in a video production company, to help with a slide brief the department was preparing to present the memorial proposal to other Army officials. His brother, impressed by how Fort Irwin Soldiers and emergency services personnel shared a common bond, decided with his partner to donate the services of their production company. The company, Anyone Collective, brought 15 members of a video production team to Fort Irwin for five days in August, to produce a 38-minute video, “Bound.”
The video is a tribute to Fort Irwin firefighters, security personnel and Soldiers who help train Army battalions and brigades to prepare for deployments. Butolph invited the audience to view the video at the nearby post theater after the ceremony, and to participate in a memorial service at the post chapel.
Ceremony keynote speaker Fort Irwin garrison commander Col. Jon Braga urged the ceremony audience of about 200 Fort Irwin Soldiers, civilians and family members, to remember the more than 3,000 who perished that day, and to also reflect on those who have sacrificed through the years since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Think about the 63,000 servicemembers deployed today, right now, in harm’s way,” Braga said. “Think about just how much they would give, to be here today with their loved ones, in the sun, safe, secure, and proud.”
Braga ended by saying:
“The same American Spirit that will see us through these challenging times, whether it is a worker without a job in a tough economy, a firefighter or police officer on the front lines of the home front, risking their lives every day, or a Soldier or servicemember facing down our enemies overseas who seek to do us harm and destroy our way of life.”