Thirteen years ago today marked one of the most horrific days in American history.
The tragic events that befell our country that fateful day vaulted our military into what will be more than 13 years of war.
We take it for granted that our nation remembers September 11, 2001, and the patriotism that ensued and united this country in the days that followed. But our youngest Soldiers and Airmen today were just entering grade school when terrorists hijacked four planes and set them on a collision course with the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The fourth was heroically re-taken by passengers who fought back against the terrorist hijackers and forced the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field.
Nearly 3,000 Americans died in the attacks, and thousands more would die in the conflicts that followed as the U.S. embarked on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Today, we remain engaged in Afghanistan – this after eight concurrent years of war in Iraq.
Wisconsin has served its nation well since September 11. Nearly 35,000 Badger State citizens have deployed in support of operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nearly 12,000 of those Soldiers and Airmen hailed from the ranks of the Wisconsin National Guard, and nearly every unit in the Wisconsin National Guard has mobilized since September 11, 2001.
Still today, more than 250 members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard are serving in Afghanistan with Battery A, 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, the 829th Engineer Company and Detachment 52 of the Operational Support Airlift Command. Nearly 100 more from the 950th Engineer Company will join them in the coming months, and others remain deployed around the world supporting global operations and combating terrorism.
The post-9/11 world is one in which America’s best and brightest – our military men and women in uniform – are being asked to bear a heavy load to protect our nation from the evils that threaten it from abroad. This generation of warriors has shouldered that burden as valiantly as its predecessor generations carried the torch of freedom in past conflicts.
Our military represents less than one percent of our nation’s population, yet that one percent has been at war for nearly 13 years. For much of that time, it fought two wars simultaneously.
Our military has paid a steep price as its combated terrorism around the globe. The Wisconsin National Guard has lost 10 of its own in combat zones. The State of Wisconsin has lost 125.
Though the events of September 11, 2001, fade further into history with each passing year, we must never forget those who lost their lives that September morning. And we must never forget those that served and lost their lives in its wake to secure our nation in an uncertain world.
Just as important is remembering the unity and patriotism America shared in the days and weeks following the attacks as well as everything that makes this country worth fighting for.