9/11 Patriot Day Anniversary: Unity After the Disaster

Eleven years have passed since Sept. 11, 2001. While images from that day are still seared into America’s collective consciousness, enough time has passed for a new generation of adults to emerge &emdash; a generation that grew up in a post-9/11 world. Thousands of U.S. military members serving in combat today were younger than 10 years old when the terrorists struck. 9/11 Began With Disaster, but Created Unity

What they and countless others might not fully comprehend is why the anniversary of those horrific events bears such a cheerful name: Patriot Day.

Maj. Alan Brown understands. The 16-year Army veteran was on hiatus from the military in 2001 and saw the attacks as a call to return to active duty. He observed how the years that followed sharpened America’s allegiance to the flag, and how throngs of strangers applauded and hugged him every time he got off a plane in uniform.

[See also “102 Minutes: Ground Zero 10 years later” ]

“I think the tragedy brought people’s inherent patriotism to the forefront and has kept it there,” said Brown, who works in USAA Corporate Communications as part of the Army’s Training With Industry program. “Those values were always there, but somehow 9/11 dug them out and made them visible again.”

Work to Be Proud Of

In the wake of the infamous attacks, the deadliest ever on U.S. soil, Americans came together in an extraordinary effort to save lives, secure our homeland, and begin to heal as a nation. As the country shifted its focus to the perpetrators, the support for military action was nearly unanimous.
Since the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq began, more than 2.3 million American service members have been deployed. More than 6,500 have lost their lives. Nearly 50,000 have been wounded. Despite the enormous sacrifices, their service has not been in vain.

Striking back at our enemies was certainly part of the plan, but the military’s work in the Middle East has also spread the best of what America has to offer. Service members have fought to bring fair government and basic human rights to people who have never known them.

In late 2011, the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, having put in place a new system that, while not perfect, is equipped to promote a peaceful democracy for the future.

“When you look at the schools we built, the power grids, the water supplies, the farming and irrigation systems, the security of the Iraqi people, it’s hard to look back and say we didn’t do a lot of good over there,” Brown said.

In Afghanistan, the fight continues, but the U.S. government has announced its plans to gradually withdraw its troops over the next several years. Currently, about 79,000 service members carry on the mission.

“There’s significant progress being made every day that you don’t see in the headlines, like providing school supplies for kids, developing literacy programs for Afghan troops and promoting equal rights for women,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly Green, an 18-year Army vet who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The Afghan people are hungry to learn and make their home a better place. Most of them are thankful to the U.S. for being there.”

Green, another Training With Industry adviser in Corporate Communications, has also felt the heightened sense of patriotism, in herself and among others; it’s present every time she deploys and receives a card or care package from a supporter, or when an aging veteran shakes her hand.
“It’s a very warm feeling when you know your efforts and sacrifice to provide a war-torn country security, stability and prosperity didn’t go unrecognized,” she said.

In Many Forms

Back at home, the anniversary of 9/11 reminds us that while our borders have been fortified, the ever-present threat of terrorism is an ongoing reality that must be dealt with. In doing so, America’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies have enacted their own brand of patriotism; a 2012 report from the Heritage Foundation revealed that at least 50 terrorist attacks against the United States have been foiled since 9/11.

So it’s only fitting that Sept. 11 is known as Patriot Day because patriotism is as wide-reaching and diverse as our nation itself. The word encapsulates the spirit of America, the pride of its people, and the courage it took to rise from the ashes of that terrible day 11 years ago.

On this Patriot Day, also called a National Day of Service and Remembrance, we honor the ones who were lost, grieve with their families, salute those who have served, and celebrate the resilience of the United States of America.

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