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386 AEW Airmen pay tribute to those lost 9/11, conduct 24-hours of marching

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. David Salanitri, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office

Members of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing gathered at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Sept 11, 2022 to pay tribute to those lost in the attacks at the Pentagon, Twin Towers and Pennsylvania 21 years ago.

Col. George Buch Jr, 386 AEW commander gave opening remarks at the first event for Patriot Day. On Sept 11, 2001, Buch was getting ready for a flight at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas aboard a C-130 Hercules. Shortly before takeoff, a crew chief ran to his jet and told everyone what had happened. Buch spent that night speaking with his parents, knowing the world had forever changed.

“On this day 21 years ago, it wasn’t soldier on soldiers on some distance battlefield who died, but cowards who killed thousands of innocent men, women and children,” Buch said. “We are here in this area of responsibility for a reason. We must keep the pressure on violent extremist and our adversaries around the world. We must keep the fight over here.”

Following the ceremony, commanders from the base’s first responder squadrons marched out, starting the wing’s 24-hours of marching in remembrance of those lost just over two decades ago. The ruck march, optionally completed with weighted vest, backpacks and other combinations, started at 3:46 p.m. Arabian Standard Time--the exact time the first plane hit the World Trade Center North Tower when converted from Eastern Daylight Time that day.

Representing the law enforcement community was Lt. Col. Tito Ruiz, 386 Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander.

“It’s important to remember the day that changed the course of our nation and to memorialize the lives lost as well as the sacrifices made by responders and civilians alike,” Ruiz said, who was a sophomore in high school during the 9/11 attack. “We get to see the tangible results of why we are over here. Although the missions have slightly changed the reason still remains the same.”

For one of the event organizers, Patriot Day holds a unique meaning.

Before joining the Air Force, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron fire fighter, Staff Sgt. Aaron Watts was in the Army National Guard. His very first deployment had a special connection with Patriot Day.

“My first deployment, we started on Sept 11, 2011 and finished a year later--Sept 11, 2012,” said Watts, a volunteer organizer for the event, who is also a career firefighter outside his Air Force Reserve duty with more than 18 years’ experience as a first-responder. “Throughout my career, both military and fire, I have had the honor of meeting several who responded to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. Their stories will never be forgotten. It’s also an opportunity to honor the thousands of military brothers and sister who have lost their lives fighting the evil that caused 9/11.”

Though this Patriot Day ceremony is more than two decades later, the significance has not been lost.

“An event that was supposed to tear our country apart, brought everyone together with an unrecognizable amount of patriotism,” said Staff Sgt. Jayden Herr, 386 ESFS and one of the event organizers. “Recognizing this day is so important--we must always remember why we wear the uniform and who we represent.”

Closing out the ceremony, the event’s emcee, Staff Sgt. Matthew Archer, a firefighter with the 386th ECES, reminded the audience of how every-day citizens responded with greatness when the enemy challenged them.

“Today, we remember once again how ordinary people, living ordinary lives reacted with the most extraordinary heroism when, without warning and in an instant, they were thrown face-to-face with true horror,” Archer said.
One final thought was left from Buch shortly before stepping down from the stage.

“I will never forget you. We shall never forget you,” Buch said.