MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Although he has been a member of the U.S. Special Operations Command Joint Color Guard team for a year, this was Spc. Andrew McKay’s first opportunity to take part in the presentation of colors during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony.
McKay was nervous at first, but as he and his team marched the U.S. and USSOCOM flags toward the USSOCOM commander while hundreds of service members, families, friends, and international partners stood in silence, his anxiety gave way to pride.
“I wish the people reading this article could see all the people out here in the hot Florida sun,” said McKay, “ … taking time out of their day to come together to remember and honor those we lost.”
Standing among the names of fallen Special Operations Forces personnel, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, USSOCOM commander, addressed the audience.
“Today, we remember the fallen, but we also remember their survivors; as the lives taken were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and co-workers,” Votel said.
As the sun continued to rise, Votel spoke of the 469 SOF men and women whose names are etched on the walls within the SOF Memorial compound killed since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“To the families of our military service members, the devastating images of 9/11 serve as a reminder that our homeland is vulnerable and freedom often comes at a cost,” said Votel. “The cost is often borne by our loved ones.”
The attacks led many to ask themselves how they could help their country.
“They left well-paying jobs and promising careers to deploy and serve where needed – their sacrifices live on in our memories and in our hearts; many members of the 9/11 generation have visible scars,” Votel said.
More than two thousand SOF personnel have been wounded since the 2001 attacks, Votel said, however, many more bear invisible scars, and we must not forget.
On this note, Votel added, some members of the 9/11 generation continue their fight long after they’ve returned from deployment and those warriors and their families should be supported at every opportunity.
“We must continue to defend our nation, assist our partners, remain vigilant, and vow never to let an attack on our homeland and our citizens happen again,” the commander said. “This day also provides an opportunity to remember how we felt in the days and weeks after those attacks, the feeling of pride that comes with having lost so much … then having the courage to rise to the task at hand.”