LEMOORE — For those old enough to remember the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it’s hard to forget where we were and what we were doing when we heard what happened in New York City.
Sixteen years later, Naval Air Station Lemoore continues to honor the 2,996 people who died that day.
“It’s really important that we never lose sight of this day and what it means to this country, especially from a military perspective,” said Lydia Bock, NASL public affairs officer. “This is always in the back of our minds. Whenever we train, whenever we fight, it’s to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again.”
Chief Petty Officer Select Caleb Gilcrease was the master of ceremonies for the event, and the words “humbled,” “honored” and “thankful” were the words he used to describe being part of the event.
“We feel as a Navy — as marines, as soldiers, as sailors, as airmen — that it’s important to honor those who have fallen,” Gilcrease said. “It’s an honor and privilege to be here and it’s important to remember those [who died], because that is our heritage.”
The NASL Chief Selectee Induction Class 124 retold the sequence of the events that took place on Sept. 11, from the hijackers getting onto the planes early that morning to the last person who was rescued on Sept. 12, 2001.
Between each event, the speakers chanted, “we will never forget.”
Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Brian Hamer gave the invocation and benediction, while Capt. David James spoke to the crowd.
Although thousands of people died on 9/11, James said many people became heroes that day too; running toward danger, instead of away from it. He talked about the ways the Navy has honored those who died on the hijacked airlines and the first responders who answered the call to action.
Gilcrease said he enlisted in 2000, just a little over a year before the 9/11 attacks. He said he was on base at the Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Sicily, when he heard the news.
Gilcrease said he was off base shopping when news of the attacks came through. He remembers crowding around a television set with local residents and just not knowing what to think about the events that were unfolding before his eyes.
Back at the base that day, Gilcrease said there was chaos as they went into force protection condition delta – a situation that happens when a global terrorist attack has occurred – for three days after 9/11.
Anxiety and fear were some of the first thoughts Gilcrease said he had, but those were quickly replaced with hope after seeing the “resounding resilience of the American people.” He said the way the nation responded made him “thankful and blessed” to be a part of the armed forces at that time.
“I know that those attacks are the catalyst for many men and women who are in the armed forces today,” Gilcrease said.
Gilcrease said he joined the Navy because he didn’t have money for college, but he ultimately kept reenlisting because he fell in love with serving his country.
“To me, the brotherhood, the sisterhood and the camaraderie is what keeps me coming back day in and day out,” Gilcrease said.
The parading of the colors, national anthem, folding of the flag and 21-gun salute were rendered by the NASL Ceremonial Division.
The NASL Search and Rescue Unit, the "Wranglers," ended the ceremony by providing a helicopter flyover over a raised American flag.