Whiteman Airmen commemorate 9/11 during wreath laying ceremony, KC Royals Armed Forces Night

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Members of Team Whiteman gathered Sept. 11, 2018, for a sunrise reveille and wreath laying ceremony in remembrance of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Flanked by a fire engine and police response vehicles, Airmen paid special tribute to those lost in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The on-base tribute included a wreath laying and ceremonial salute from Col. Seth Graham, 509th Bomb Wing Vice Commander at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Champion, deputy fire chief, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron, helped organize the event at Whiteman. “To never forget is a sacred obligation,” he said. “Many of our total-force teammates were very young on 9/11. Those of us who were in uniform prior to 9/11 must pass along the story so they know what much of what we do is all about.”

Among first responders, the essence of the heroism at the Twin Towers in New York can be summarized by a head nod, Champion said. When the city’s firefighters made their way to the stairs, some passed each other and gave a solemn nod to the other as they briefly locked eyes. Those making their way up the stairs knew they were probably never coming back down.

“The nod was a way of saying goodbye or ‘see you on the top floor’ someday,” Champion said. “There were many instances of bright pure humanity that shined through the abysmal horror of that day.”

As the sun rose on another duty day at Whiteman AFB, Champion said that the memory of 9/11 should serve to instill an appreciation for the freedom we enjoy with each new day.

“Truly living our lives to the fullest every single day, giving gratitude and paying homage to those who perished is how we keep their memory alive when we gather to remember,” Champion said. “Honoring the lives cut short, their absence from our formations, ceremonies or vigils every of September is how we remember.”

That the evening, a group of Airmen, along with Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines, were recognized for their service during a dedicated Armed Forces Night ceremony hosted by the Kansas City Royals baseball team at Kauffman Stadium.

Standing among their sister service representatives and veterans, Airmen exchanged a service cap for a KC Royals baseball cap and announced players in the game’s lineup.

“It was a really rewarding experience,” said Senior Airman Jordan Sly, an operations management customer service technician with the 509th Civil Engineering Squadron. “My family came in from Michigan just to see me on the field. Everyone seemed so close and supportive, it was a great feeling of support and togetherness with the larger community.”

A B-2 from Whiteman AFB flew over the stadium at the conclusion of the U.S. National Anthem before the baseball game started.

Sly said the ceremony put her military service into perspective.

“Being out there made me feel proud,” Sly said. “I joined the Air Force to be part of something bigger than myself. The memory of this day brings everyone together. We feel more whole as a nation and it’s also a reminder of how strong we are together.”