BYU Air Force ROTC remembers the fallen on 9/11

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Two ROTC members will guard the flag until 7 a.m. on Sept. 10 in remembrance of the attacks on 9/11. The BYU AFROTC held a rose-laying ceremony and three-volley gun salute during the morning of Sept. 11, 2014.
Two ROTC members will guard the flag until 7 a.m. on Sept. 12 in remembrance of the attacks on 9/11. The BYU AFROTC held a rose-laying ceremony and three-volley gun salute during the morning of Sept. 11, 2014.

A solemn silence resonated as three sharp, clean-shaven cadets lined up in formation, facing the flagpole south of the Abraham Smoot Building. Firmly holding their rifles, they waited for command.

Air Force cadets from the BYU and UVU ROTCs and their families watched on, hands over their hearts. Four roses were laid next to the flagpole. Each rose represented an airplane from the Sept. 11 attacks.

The command was given, and the cadets fired into the sky. Smoke surrounded the immediate area as shell casings fell to the ground. The thunderous sound echoed through campus, startling students as they walked to class.

The rifle salute was only one part of this year’s 9/11 vigil. The day-long ceremonies were hosted by the BYU and UVU Air Force ROTC to honor the first responders from the attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

The flag waved at half-staff in remembrance of those who lost their lives on that day. Two cadets from the ROTC guarded the flag for the next 24 hours, rotating every 20 minutes.

Thirteen years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four American flights. Two planes hit the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon. The passengers aboard a fourth plane fought against the terrorists. The plane crashed in Pennsylvania. The coordinated terrorist attack resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths.

Many Americans remember where they were that day when they heard the news. Children were going to school. Men and women were at work. Others were with family. Many lost of their own.

Guest speaker Thad Forester speaks to BYU AFROTC in the Varsity Theater on Sept. 11, 2014. Forester spoke about his brother, who served overseas.
Guest speaker Thad Forester speaks to BYU AFROTC in the Varsity Theater on Sept. 11, 2014. Forester spoke about his brother, who served overseas.

Cadet Colonel Jesse Lanham, a senior studying economics, said that 9/11 reminds him of the things that matter most.

“9/11 was something that, even at 13 years old, had an important impact on my life. Even as a cadet in school, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to protect what is most important to me. It’s a sentiment among all the ROTC cadets,” Lanham said.  

After the ceremony Col. Paul Kucharek spoke at the meeting honoring Senior Airman Mark Forester, who was killed in Afghanistan. Kucharek said that the anniversary gives all Americans an opportunity not only to remember those who lost their lives 13 years ago but also to remember those who continue to give their lives so the nation can enjoy the blessings of freedom.

The BYU Air Force ROTC honored this 12-year tradition, is a reflection of the great sacrifice they devote every day to their country.

“Unfortunately I almost feel like a lot of Americans are forgetting that there are people who want to destroy our way of life and everything we believe in and love. Do your best not to forget,” Lanham said. 

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