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Respect for Fallen Comrades Brings Onlookers to Service

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2001 – Men and women, officers and enlisted, military and civilian alike shuddered and wiped away tears as the names of those killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon Sept. 11 scrolled along giant screens to the haunting strains of "Amazing Grace" during the Oct. 11 memorial service at the military's scarred headquarters.

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Grief was evident in every direction as some 25,000 people paid their respects Oct. 11, 2001, to those killed a month earlier in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA.
  

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The 25,000 mourners at the Pentagon memorial service came from all walks of life, but with a single and singular purpose: to honor their fallen comrades.

"It presents kind of a unified front for the military to show support for our fallen comrades, both military and civilian," Army Lt. Col. Charles Reed said. "It's important because we believe that we're a family as opposed to an organization."

Army Maj. Dennis Fiemeyer, Reed's coworker in DoD's International Security Affairs office, agreed. "I think it's important to share this with those people who have worked here, that we're one big family," he said. Both men were in the building Sept. 11.

"This is just what we've got to do," Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Mike Parris, who works for the Joint Staff, said.

Air Force Maj. Jack Clarke, also of the Joint Staff, noted that military members know they could ultimately die for their country, but the civilians who were killed were caught totally unaware.

"For the civilians, this was a sacrifice they weren't even aware could be part of their lives in the Pentagon," he said. Clarke also noted Sept. 11 has changed the way his family views his duty in the Pentagon, normally considered safe duty for military members who are used to serving in sometimes precarious situations in far-flung corners of the world.

"My children and my wife are concerned," he said. "This really brought home what being in the military can mean and the sacrifices that you could be asked to make as a member of the service."

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Larry Brinson said he knew some of the soldiers killed Sept. 11. He said it was appropriate that the service was held at the Pentagon, the attack site. "There's a healing process that needs to happen," said Brinson, who works in the Marines' Department of Aviation. "This is just one step further in that process. More importantly, it shows those who did this that we're not going to back down."

Army National Guard Chaplain (Maj.) Clark Carr had one word to describe why so many people turned out for a memorial service for people they didn't even know. "Solidarity," he said.

Carr described how the military had posted chaplains throughout the crowd to comfort and provide for the spiritual needs of the grieving. A pastor in a Maryland suburb, Carr said roughly 50 chaplains were on hand to comfort family members of those killed and about another 30 to move through the crowd.

Sadly, he noted, "being there" is all the chaplains can do in the face of so much loss. "Our mission is to provide presence," he said. "Nothing that we can do is enough, so being here is just one token."

There could be no doubt but that this predominantly military crowd was firmly united behind their commander in chief. Cheers met every mention of retribution President Bush made during his short speech.

"I think it was very appropriate when the president said that we would continue (the fight against terrorism) until it was over," Brinson, the Marine, said. But even this hardcore Leatherneck was affected by the high emotions during the ceremony.

"At the heart of all of this I'm still a Marine," he said after the ceremony, "but I was pulling back tears the whole time."

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Related Sites:
Memorial Service in Remembrance of Those Lost on September 11th: Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, The Pentagon, Oct. 11, 2001
President Pays Tribute at Pentagon Memorial: Remarks by the President at the Department of Defense Service of Remembrance, The Pentagon, Oct. 11, 2001

Click photo for screen-resolution imageEveryone in attendance at an Oct. 11, 2001, memorial service for Pentagon victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks rose spontaneously and began to wave flags and sing along as a military choir sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageEveryone attending a memorial service for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon received a small American flag in their program. The audience rose spontaneously and began to wave the flags and sing along as a military choir sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" during the Oct. 11 service. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem,  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA red rose, as well as ivory roses, were left on the seats of visiting families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon at the Oct. 11 Pentagon memorial service. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imagePeople inspect photographs of the 184 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, prior to the Oct. 11, 2001, memorial service. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA "Jumbo-tron" screen shows a close up of the military choir prior to the Oct. 11, 2001, memorial service at the Pentagon honoring the 184 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the building. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imagePeople begin filling up the VIP and other guest seating at the Pentagon memorial service honoring the 184 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the building. About 25,000 persons attended the service Oct. 11, 2001. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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