MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
On a day where most Americans paused to remember one of the most tragic days in our history, Sept. 11, 2001, one Marine shared his 9/11 experiences with members of the National Exchange Club of Albany.
1st Lt. Caleb D. Eames, public affairs officer, Public Affairs Office, Operations and Training Division, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., was the guest speaker for the club’s monthly meeting Friday.
“Today is not only Patriot’s Day, but the eighth anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, and next week we will be remembering the prisoners of war and those missing in action. This morning, we had a POW/MIA breakfast on the Marine Base and our special guest was Retired Air Force Capt. Bill Robinson, the longest-held enlisted POW in American history. He spent seven years in a prison war camp in Vietnam,” Eames said. “It was a tremendous story that he shared with us, and I think it is important to remember these events that happened.”
Eames was in Washington, when the attacks occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, and asked everyone to pause and remember back to that day eight years ago.
“Every person in this room can tell me exactly where you were, what you were doing and who was with you. It really is a moment and a day when every American can look back and remember where they were. That is something we can all share. That is a common bond of patriotism we all share,” Eames said.
He explained that every year in September, there is a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City. Earlier in 2001, he had been assigned to a detail that would be at the U.N. event. He worked temporarily at the 8th and I Marine Barracks, a part of Marine Corps Headquarters as the non-commissioned officer in charge of the U.N. detail. His role was to provide security for the former secretary of state, Colin Powell.
“During our final meeting to discuss security plans for the trip to New York, I was told that we would be stopping by 8th and I, the State Department and our final stop would be the Pentagon. There were to be several security details present, including the Diplomatic Security Service and many other federal agencies,” Eames said.
He said that just like in the movies, as soon as he started the brief, everyone’s pagers and cell phones started ringing at the same time.
“We got a television from down the hall and saw that one of the World Trade Center Towers was on fire after a plane hit it, but we continued with the meeting, not realizing what was taking place. The television was still on and just as I was getting ready to conclude the meeting, we all watched as the second plane hit the other tower. Our hearts dropped and our minds were racing. We were thinking about what had just happened and what we were going to do about it,” he said.
Eames said the next moment was one where you don’t believe what you are seeing as a third plane hit the Pentagon.
“Word came to us that there were white vans involved, so we armed ourselves and stopped every delivery van in sight,” he added.
“For me and those who have worn the uniform and defended our country, that day has extra meaning.”
Later, Eames traveled to New York City with the security detail, worked with 9/11 responders and saw ground zero. He was reassigned to Hawaii and deployed in 2004 to serve in Baghdad.
He said that he viewed the war in terms of good versus evil.
“I joined the Marine Corps during a time when we were not at war in 1995. Things were safe and secure back then, but what really strikes me is that young people today are joining while the nation is at war and that is a tremendous feat,” Eames said.
“In Iraq, the people I met were glad that we were there to keep them safe. Our enemy are the ones who are against our way of life, the ones who believe in subjugation and fear tactics. They don’t believe in freedom and security. Now, Baghdad is a safe place and the occasional incidents you hear about do not represent the whole picture. Our mission has succeeded,” he said.
Eames then pointed to a framed display of counterfeit dollar bills that was used as carpeting for Saddam Hussein’s parade field and palace.
In Iraq, that is considered the ultimate disrespect in that country – to show someone the soles of your feet.
Saddam had his carpet printed with the very thing that represents America to him, for his troops to walk on.
“My wife had the dollar bills framed for me so I could remember why I was there and what I stood for. I was in Iraq to defend our way of life and stand up for something much bigger than myself. I was there to stand up for the ideals of this nation and for the freedom that I represent wearing this uniform and for the freedoms you all enjoy, like being in this Exchange Club and helping your community and the youth you serve,” he concluded.
Following Eames’ speech, he received a standing ovation with thunderous applause.
Thomas Knighton, president-elect of the Exchange Club, said, “We wanted to invite a Marine because of the significance of the events that happened and we need to keep remembering. We have to be alert and know that it can happen again if we are not careful. Our speaker today was absolutely wonderful.”
Another member, Ralph Paustian, who also introduced Eames, said he was thrilled when he heard that he would be the guest speaker and was asked to introduce him.
“Every American needs to realize what our military does for our country. The media tends to project what they think we want to hear and that is the deaths and destruction. They do not give the other side of what is happening. Our speaker was wonderful and was able to bring that other side, the good things that are happening, to light,” Paustian said.
The consensus from many in the group was that Eames had a lot of wonderful experiences for someone so young and that he needed to share his story with schools.
Bill Banks, secretary for the Exchange Club, said, “It was a fantastic speech and I just wish that we were able to let him go to a lot of the schools and tell these kids what freedom is all about. Many of them don’t understand what people who serve in the military go through and if I had anything to say about it; he would be in all the schools in this area. I wish we had Dr. Sally Whatley, the Dougherty County school superintendent, here today so she could have heard him.”
Eames also participated in the Patriot’s Field of Flags event hosted by the Exchange Club of Albany later that evening at the Albany Mall.
He assisted in reading a list of the names of residents of the state of Georgia who have died while participating in the Global War on Terror. The Albany Marine Band also participated in the event.