Repost: Katy Area Veterans Remember the Anniversary of 9/11

Originally published in the Katy Times 9.11.2021

By Andy Valadez, USMC (88 to 92)/Public Relations Officer for the Jonathan D. Rozier American Legion Post 164 (Katy, Texas)

It seems that every generation in America has had their wakeup call. Every war, every undeclared war, every attack, and every call to duty is remembered more acutely by those called to serve our nation in the United States Armed Forces.  These volunteer civilians are transformed into dedicated warriors and their extended families are also affected and impacted by their decision to go into potential harm’s way.  Harm can come in a variety of ways, personal sacrifice and financial hardship, psychological trauma, exposure to health debilitating chemicals and diseases, physical injury in training and combat, and the ultimate cost – one’s life. 

The military makes no promises, and it seems an invisible hand guides duty assignments around the world or state side. 

My own wake-up call was the Marine Barracks bombing in Lebanon where we lost over 241 Marines and servicemen in the first modern Islamic attack on the morning of October 23, 1983.  I was 18 then and a friend, Lance Corporal Timothy McMahon (Marine), was killed there at the age of 19 and his sacrifice impacted my classmates, myself, and then girlfriend and now wife of 40 years.  We realized that life was dangerous, and freedom was costly.

September 1, 2001 was a wakeup call for all generations that day; it was 1st and 5th for other generations from the WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Beirut, and then New York city at the World Trade Center.  It’s one thing to lose soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, and another to lose innocent American civilians and foreign nationals who live or visit America on our soil. As veterans, we never forget our comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice, their memory lives on, and they continue to inspire service to our great nation.

According to a recent article by NPR in June 2021, “An estimated 7,057 service members have died during military operations since 9/11, while suicides among active-duty personnel and veterans of those conflicts have reached 30,177”.

A few veterans remember:

Founder of the Portrait of a Fallen Warrior Gallery in Cypress, Ken Pridgeon (86), USAF Veteran, who painted U.S. Army Captain Jonathan D. Rozier (the namesake for the American Legion Post located in Katy), the first killed-in-action in the War on Terror from Katy remembers, “I, just like everyone else, heard the news of the first tower and then saw the second which I thought was a rocket.  I started painting fallen warriors from Texas in 2010 and have painted over 300; however, about 630 have fallen since then, the most recent from Afghanistan U.S. Marine Lance Corporal David Lee Espinoza (20) has been delivered to the family in Laredo.

On Sept. 11, 2001, a routine deployment turned into a life-altering event. My then-future-husband and I found ourselves onboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70); he, on the flight deck working aircraft launch and recovery operations, and I, standing watch at my radar station on the navigation bridge onboard the USS Carl Vinson, watching what we all thought was a terrible movie on a small TV screen. As the 2nd plane hit the South Tower, we couldn’t fathom the enormity of what was taking place. The USS Carl Vinson went on to be first to strike in Afghanistan following the horrific attacks on our Nation. To this day, I find it difficult to visit the WTC. It was the day that unified us as a nation, a day that brought us all together as one military force, a day we continue to mourn with so many families who lost loved ones. It is the day we will NEVER forget,Dr. Grace Horner, former U.S. Navy, OS2 (Operations Specialist Second Class).

September 11, 2001, the changes we have seen.  The planes hitting the Towers, the Pentagon, and crashing into an empty field in Pennsylvania.  I was sitting on my couch tying my shoes getting ready to head out the door to work.  The news was on as it was every morning. The moment I saw the first plane explode into balls of flames as it crashed through Tower One, I knew it was not an accident.  I thought in the back of my mind – hoped and prayed it was.  Then the second plane hit Tower Two and my worst fears were confirmed.  Our country was under attack.  I called my wife Krystal and told her the news.  She was driving to Fowler Colorado with our daughter.  Not fully understanding how but knowing our lives would be changed on that day forever.  9/11 happened twice for us. Once in 2001 and again in 2012. Our lives have been changed forever,” Mark “Oz” Geist, U.S. Marine and Author of “13 Hours” (Benghazi).

When 9/11 happened, I was finishing a work-up at our desert training facility in California with SEAL Team 5, getting ready to deploy.  We all came in for lunch and it was on TV.  At first everyone thought it was a movie. It’s hard to believe that something that took away so many of our freedoms is hardly remembered 20 years later,” Charlie Melton, U.S. Navy SEAL/ Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SOCS) Retired (Sniper Instructor)/Founder of Charlie Mike Precision.

On 9/11, I was confirming an appointment with a client. Once on the telephone, he told me to turn my television. Our meeting was cancelled. I was stunned. My Brother-in-law (A wing commander with the British Royal Air Force) was stationed at the Pentagon. The aircraft arrived at the Pentagon before he did. He was safe. I was retired Army and I called to see if my services were needed. They were not. I stayed retired and managed to watch a 20-year attempt to make things right in the world. I believe we made a difference, but I also believe that history will not be kind to the attempt,Harry Woodstrom, U.S. Army, Commander of the 22nd District Department of Texas American Legion (12 posts in the Greater Houston area).

I was stationed at the Pentagon on 9/11. I was in Room 4E468 when the plane struck the building.   As soon as the second plane attacked in NYC, I knew we were at war.  A photo of room 4E468 was taken 1-2 days later and the Marine Corps flag was still standing.  The flag was retrieved, went to the International Space Station, and is now on display at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia,” Joe D. Baker II, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (retired)/Founder of Semper Fi Brands (Katy, Texas).

As we remember those who lost their lives 20 years ago, let’s continue to stand for America and never forget the men and women who have lost their loves since then and those who stand ready to defend her today. We are Americans.

Andy Valadez Biography:

Andy Valadez is President of Marketing Dynamics based in Houston, a United States Marine Corps Veteran who served from 1988 to 1992 during Desert Storm/Shield and was based at the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing Headquarters Squadron in New Orleans, serving 350 active-duty Marines as the Unit Diary.  He is a Texas A&M University and Tulane University graduate with a degree in Marketing with a focus on Public Relations and Applied Business (Tulane).  He is married (34 years) and has two daughters one college – one at Texas A&M University (Forensics) and another focusing her career in the service industry.

He volunteers to serve veterans via the American Legion, Marine Corps League, Honor Flight Houston, Wheelchairs for Warriors, Advisor to the President of the Houston U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce and founding member of Networking In Action Veterans Business Force based in Houston, and Founder of A Million Veteran Millionaires.

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