Five years later Airmen remember 9/11, continue the fight

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Sept. 11, 2001, is a day no American will ever forget, and Airmen serving around the world took time this Patriots Day to reflect on events just five years ago.

Flags flew at half-staff and Airmen observed moments of silence around the world to commemorate the solemn anniversary. Coalition forces and sister services joined Airmen for silent reflections and memorial services at forward-deployed locations throughout Southwest Asia while coalition members from the Australia Defense Force, Japan Air Self Defense Forces and Republic of Korea Air Forces joined Airmen for a memorial service at Ali Air Base, Iraq. 

At Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, more than 100 Airmen, Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and civilians gathered for a silent candle service.

Airmen with the 385th Air Expeditionary Group at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, marked this year's Patriots Day observance with sorties originating from the group's three locations at Incirlik, Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan, and its squadron in Southwest Asia. These sorties commemorated the three attack sites -- New York, Washington and Pennsylvania -- during the terrorist attack on 9/11.  

C-17 Globemaster IIIs with the 385th AEG took off at separate times to commemorate the events of 9/11. All the departure times were set exactly fives years to the date of the attack. The first C-17 took flight at 3:46 p.m., EEST (Turkey time), to commemorate when Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. EDT. The second Globemaster took to the sky at 4:03 p.m., EEST, to commemorate when Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. EDT. The third C-17 took off at 4:37 p.m., EEST, to commemorate when Flight 77 hit the west side of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. EDT. The last C-17 took off at 5:03 p.m., EEST, to commemorate Flight 93 that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

"As one part of the whole mobility team deployed in support of the war on terrorism, the 385th AEG wanted to remind (its Airmen) and the world of the significance of this day," said Col. Mike Cassidy, 385th Air Expeditionary Group commander, who is deployed here from the 60th Airlift Wing at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "It is our small way to punctuate the moments when our great nation was attacked."

Reflecting on that particular day, today's Airmen were from many different walks of life and now are focused on providing air power critical for warfighters throughout the area of operation.

"September 11th confused me, horrified me and angered me," said Maj. James Flanders of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas AB. "It reconfirmed my decision to join the military. I've met dozens of Airmen since then who say they made the decision to join the military on that day. I know why they joined and am proud to serve with them."

Tech. Sgt. David Medrano had just moved to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to be a training instructor. 

"As the story unfolded, many emotions came and went," said Sergeant Medrano who is now assigned to the 376th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Manas AB. "I was very angry. I decided I would pour everything I had into becoming a training instructor. I explained to my Airmen that everyone had their own reason for enlisting, and they should honor those who died by being at their best."

"I was in ninth grade Army Junior ROTC when I heard about what was happening," said Airman 1st Class Ryan Potts of the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron at Manas AB. "I remember being in total shock and disbelief. After the events of 9/11, I decided to join the military because I had a new respect for our country and patriots who had fought for our freedom."

(Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this story)