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Community observes 9th anniversary of U.S. attacks, Patriots’ Field of Flags display honors 9/11 heroes, victims

16 Sep 2010 | Marti Gatlin, Public Affairs Specialist

Albany Marines, dignitaries and residents paid tribute to those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks on the United States through a Patriots’ Field of Flags memorial program Saturday at Albany Mall’s west end.

Presented by the Exchange Club of Southwest Georgia, community members also remembered Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen who died fighting in the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan since then. Various organizations’ officials or representatives read about 180 names of Georgians who lost their lives in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

As 20 rows of 50 American flags each on eight-foot poles sporadically unfurled in the breezes during the attacks’ ninth anniversary observance, Maj. Gen. James A. Kessler, commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command, reminded participants about Sept. 11, 2001. He spoke about heroic Americans who died during and following the attacks on the nation when hijacked jetliners hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A hijacked plane also crashed into a Pennsylvania field. He also paid tribute to the service members who have fallen since in the country’s defense.

“What a beautiful site before us - a thousand flags standing tall on this field of green; a thousand times over, each state of our magnificent republic represented by a star; 1,000 times over each of the 13 original colonies represented by a stripe and 1,000 times over, this Star Spangled Banner stands watch over our Georgian soil, over our American soil,” he said.

Kessler stressed the “Field of Flags in front of us this morning and every flag raised across our country today also stands as an urgent mandate for us - a mandate to remember, reflect and reaffirm.”

Americans must remember the courage and strength of firemen and police officers as well as the heroism of common men and women on 9/11, he added. Americans should reflect on the true meaning of patriotism and reaffirm their commitment to protecting the fundamental rights of all people.

Sgt. Maj. Stephen Thomas, sergeant major, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, was among the Marines from LOGCOM and MCLB Albany who attended the observance.

“We don’t forget the citizens to include the service men and women (who) have lost their lives in the attacks from Sept. 11 and those who have given their lives in the war on terrorism,” he said. “I remember personal friends who lost their lives, fellow Marines, service members. They’re citizens, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, aunts and uncles. They’re your neighbors and they come from everywhere across the U.S.”

Thomas served in Iraq from October 2007 to May 2008 as the sergeant major of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Lance Cpl. Cody Johnson, heavy equipment mechanic, Organized Maintenance Unit, Fleet Support Division, LOGCOM, helped three other fellow Marines talk to the public about the 7-ton vehicle they drove to the memorial program’s site.

“It shows me that Americans are still proud to be Americans,” said the 21-year-old from Corpus Christi, Texas.

He explained the vehicle’s capabilities to children, age 5 and older as well as to adults who thanked him for his service.

“(Our display) shows the local community that MCLB Albany supports the community, and we’re happy to be here,” Johnson said.

Sgt. Patrick Harper, an organizational mechanic with the same unit, echoed Johnson’s sentiments. The 26-year-old from Augusta, Ga., said the event showed “the pride of Americans after 9/11.”

Seeing Americans support the military was also great, he noted.

The eighth annual Patriots’ Field of Flags featured the Darton-Community Brass Ensemble and the Marine Corps Junior ROTC from Westover Com-prehensive High School who presented the colors.

Rev. William Hanna provided the invocation. Marine Corps League members demonstrated how to fold the national ensign accompanied by an explanation of each of the 13 folds. Rifle volleys by Walter H. Burt American Legion Post 30 members and three-cannon volleys by the post’s Signal Battery followed. Lone bugler, John Gray, a veteran, played Taps and retired Marine Col. Daniel Gillan concluded the program with his bagpipes.

Visitors also inspected a Vietnam-era Huey, National Guard equipment and observed an Albany Police Department bomb sniffing canine.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany