FORT BENNING, Ga. — The Maneuver Center of Excellence marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 Islamic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon with a 9/11 Recognition Ceremony on Thursday at the National Infantry Museum.
It coincided with the basic training graduation of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, at the museum parade field. A steel beam pulled from the World Trade Center rubble a decade ago sat on display near Heritage Walk.
Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general, was guest speaker.
“Soldiers, you have accomplished much and I know you are excited at the prospect of leaving (Sand) Hill,” he told the graduates. “It was on the Hill and in these last weeks that you have gone from everyday civilians to extraordinary Soldiers — ready, able and armed to defend the freedoms Americans hold dear. You’re going to meet the challenge.
“Today, as we also reflect on September 11, 2001, and the past 10 years, I would like to say to you that today is a day to be proud to be an American.”
The 12-foot-long beam is from Tower 2, where Rick Rescorla is credited with saving the lives of nearly 3,700 Morgan Stanley employees, as well as other people.
Rescorla, a graduate of Fort Benning’s Officer Candidate School, was a Vietnam War veteran. A Battle of Ia Drang Valley survivor, he is the Soldier depicted on the cover of the book, We Were Soldiers Once, and Young.
“As a platoon leader with the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry, on the second day in the Valley, Rick led his troops forward to determine the enemy’s intentions with a soothing assurance commiserate of a man who would become known for his calm demeanor in times of crisis,” Brown said. “It is said he had a voice that was impossible to disobey.”
Rescorla retired from the Army as a colonel and then became vice president of security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in the World Trade Center.
He was last seen heading up the stairs near the 10th floor of Tower 2. His remains were never recovered.
“Rick could have only focused on himself in those moments of crisis,” the general said. “But just as he had in Vietnam and reminiscent of the man he was, he cared not for himself, but for those he felt called to lead, once again leading with an unwavering voice and unfaltering steps.”
Brown said 9/11 offers a chance to pay tribute to a generation that has borne the burden for U.S. security during a decade of war. More than 2 million troops have served in war zones, deploying more than 2.5 million times, and 6,200 Americans have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Just as Pearl Harbor and World War II defined a generation destined for greatness, so have the events of 9/11,” he said. “The 9/11 generation includes more than 5 million Americans who have served in uniform over the past decade. I know many of the young people serving today were sitting in classrooms on that fateful day.
“Even knowing the road ahead can lead you into harm’s way, you’ve still raised your hands in service to this country.”
At the steel beam display, local police and fire department representatives laid a wreath Thursday as Taps played. They were joined by Sgt. Michael Stockton, B Company’s drill sergeant of the cycle.
John Goodrich was only 20 on Sept. 11 and working for the Russell County (Ala.) Sheriff’s Department. After the attacks, he and several other officers went to New York to aid in rescue efforts at ground zero.
“Words can’t describe it. It was unbelievable,” said Goodrich, now a Columbus police officer. “I’m glad to see they put the time and effort into recognizing those who lost their lives that day. It was an eye-opening experience for me. Very dramatic.
“The thing that stands out the most is how people from all over the country came together to help.”
Nearly 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and plane crash site in the field near Shanksville, Pa.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones on that fateful day 10 years ago,” Brown said. “We will always remember them and the thousands more we have lost or have been wounded in the aftermath of the war on terror that still continues today.”