Portland Air Base members reflect and honor 9/11 victims

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
In the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 11, more than 50 base personnel gathered here to participate in the 2nd annual 'Ruck, Run, Walk' event to observe the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and to remember those who lost their lives in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

After air base members arrived at the memorial park, Maj. Trisa Kelly, 142nd Fighter Wing chaplain, delivered an opening prayer and reflected on the event.

"They were ordinary people like you and me: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, best friends, neighbors and coworkers," said Kelly.

There were 2,977 casualties related to the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Kelly touched on how members attending the event could appreciate and grow from the events of that day.

"A lesson we can learn from them is to not take for granted the gift of life," she said.  "They had no idea it would be their last kiss good-bye from their spouse or child before heading out to work that day."

After the prayer, base personnel began a route starting at the memorial park and looping around the base. As the sun began to rise, some members used this time to run in small groups, as larger groups took off to walk, and others donned military uniforms, keeping a spirit of "always ready, always there."

Members of the Portland Air National Guard Base rucked, ran or walked one second for each person lost for a total of 50 minutes.

The event was started last year by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Graver, 943rd Rescue Group, 304th Rescue Squadron commander, assigned to the Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon. With the assistance of Master Sgt. Kevin Stone, 142nd Fighter Wing Maintenance Group, the event was replicated again this year.

"This event allows us to come together as a base, both Guard and Reserve units while we remember those that perished on 9/11, as we stay focused on our missions of homeland security and defense," said Graver.

Wearing his helmet and other tactical gear during the ruck, he talked about how much the world has changed in terms of security over the past 14 years.

"You cannot go through an airport now without the added use of the TSA [Transpiration Security Administration], and our deployments and homeland force protection are directly related to the terror attacks of that day," he said.

As some personnel wore running shoes or light weight work out gear, Airman 1st Class Alec Camp, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician assigned to the 142nd Civil Engineer Squadron, wore the entire bomb explosion suit during the nearly hour- long trek.

Covered in sweat and carrying plenty of water to drink, Camp said he thought somebody should wear the bomb suit for the commemorative event.  "I wanted to make it memorable," he said. "Having my other team members along for the walk has made it easier for sure!"

Camp has been in the Air National Guard for nearly two years and finished his training less than a year ago. He said that this was the longest time he has spent in the full suit since technical school.

"I had a couple of situations in school where we had to spend a great deal of time looking for IED's [Improvised Explosive Devices], but never a two-mile hike like today," he said.

After the 50 minute time lapse, most participants met back at the base memorial static display, before heading back to their duty stations to begin the work day.

With a renewed sense of unity, Kelly said events like these should be daily reminders in which members can overcome misunderstandings and complications.

"Make sure others around you know how much they mean to you," she said. "We can choose to live in gratitude. We can be grateful for the nation we live in, for our families and friends and for life itself."