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Service, sacrifice and remembrance: 97 AMW honors 9/11

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Airmen of the 97th Air Mobility Wing stand for the placement of the Air Force and U.S. Flag during the 9/11 memorial ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. This year, unlike others, the ceremony was held inside and with limited attendence due to the COVID-19 pandemic and weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

man stands in front of a backdrop

Members of the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department perform honor guard detail for the 9/11 memorial ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The number 343 represented on the helmets is a reminder of the 343 fire response members whose lives were lost ninteen years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class King Gentles, a firefighter assigned to the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron, acts as the narrator for the 9/11 memorial ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. This is the ninth year the base has held the 9/11 memorial ceremony as a wing level event for all Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Hutton, a response force member assigned to the 97th Security Forces Squadron, recites the Police Officer’s Prayer during the 9/11 memorial ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. In addition to his prayer, Airmen from the 97th Medical Group and 97th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department each said a respective prayer for their organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

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U.S. Air Force Col. David Vanderburg, the 97th Mission Support Group commander, gives a speech as the guest speaker for the 9/11 memorial ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The purpose of the ceremony was to honor the firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medical responders who lost their lives on this day 19 years ago during the attacks on 9/11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

man stands in front of a backdrop

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class King Gentles, a firefighter assigned to the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron, acts as the narrator for the 9/11 memorial ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. This is the ninth year the base has held the 9/11 memorial ceremony as a wing level event for all Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

man stands in front of a backdrop

Jeremy Stevens, the fitness director assigned to the 97th Force Support Squadron, shows on the map the different routes for the 9/11 Memorial Run to Remember, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The run offered three different 5-, 9-, or 11-mile routes for participates and is held annually after the 9/11 memorial ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla --

The 97th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department held a 9/11 remembrance ceremony, Sept. 11, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

The purpose of the ceremony was to honor the firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medical responders who lost their lives on this day 19 years ago during the attacks on 9/11.

This ceremony began with the posting of the colors and the playing of the national anthem followed by the reciting of the Police Officer’s, Paramedic’s, and Firefighter’s Prayers by 97th AMW Airmen. The guest speaker of the ceremony, U.S. Air Force Col. David Vanderburg, the 97th Mission Support Group commander, then provided some remarks.

“It is good that we set aside this time to reflect, lest we forget the significance of this horrific event that occurred 19 years ago today,” he said. “Extreme acts of valor, heroism & courage were demonstrated that day showing the best of humanity in the midst of such tragedy. For almost all my military career we have been at war in the Middle East, bravely combating terrorism to prevent reoccurrence on our soil. I lost a personal, dear friend to an IED while we were deployed, Maj Rod Rodriguez, and have tattooed on my arm ‘all gave some and some gave all,’ as a forever reminder that freedom isn’t free.”

To conclude the ceremony, the “Striking of the Four Fives Bell” was performed. According to the ceremony’s coordinator Tech. Sgt. Francisco Bolanos, the ringing of the bell was used to transmit information before radios or pagers. When a firefighter in the line of duty or an important official passes away, the bell is struck five times, repeated in four series, with a slight pause between each series. This is performed at the ceremony as a reminder of the members lost that day.

“The events that took place truly affect the older members of the fire department because they were either early in their careers or still in high school and had a vivid memory on how it was a huge hit to fire services everywhere,” said Bolanos. This ceremony is a way to show the heritage, the heart it takes, and the shoes to fill to be part of the fire department.”

According to the Philip Fourroux the 97th CES installation fire chief, the ceremony at Altus AFB originally started as a small mention during the fire department’s roll call. However, the words spoken during the ceremonies “let us never forget,” made him want to increase the day’s significance. Since 2012, when Fourroux was an active duty senior master sergeant, he has grown the fire department’s ceremony into the wing event that it is today.

“Even though we are restricted from what we can do currently, it’s still important to hold the ceremony, no matter how simple. It could even be a moment of silence,” said Fourroux. “This is about remembering those who have lost their lives and how it has impacted us today.”

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