On September 11, 2001, I was an active-duty U.S. Marine Corps officer assigned to serve in a joint programs office in Rosslyn, Virginia. When the tragic events of the day unfolded, I made my way to the Pentagon to help lead the recovery efforts. On September 13, we came across an intact USMC flag on the fourth floor, just a few yards from where the plane had impacted. Everything around this flag was destroyed, burnt, and tossed about. But the Marine Corps flag stood tall and strong and completely unscathed.
I was part of the crew that recovered the flag, and the event was captured by CNN, the Washington Post, and numerous other media outlets. The flag is currently on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Two years ago I wrote and published a book called “Four Days at the Pentagon,” proceeds from which are donated to the Wounded Warrior Regiment. My Veterans Day will be marked by a visit to the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Those who died at the Pentagon during these attacks are honored victims (if not heroes) and should always be remembered.
In December 2003, I was on a charter flight from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Kuwait City with about 300 other deploying soldiers. At a crew-change stop in Chicago, the incoming crew surprised everyone with an early Christmas gift for the passengers. They decorated the interior of the Boeing 747 with garland and decorations, passed out food to each soldier, and had five fully decorated live Christmas trees that they wanted planted at bases in Kuwait or Iraq (I planted one at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and sent the others north).
They also gave out goody bags, prepared by local Chicago school children, that contained hand-drawn cards. Each of us received five or six of these, and we read them out loud to each other. Some were comical and some were serious, and many brought tears to our eyes. I proudly displayed my cards in my office while deployed and I have every Christmas since. We had no idea who prepared these packages or cards or who was behind the food, trees, or decorations, but I can tell you that it touched all of us in a very special way.
My son, Lance Corporal Robert Greniger, served in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine during the summer offensive in the Southern Provinces in 2011 and died from an IED blast July 12, 2011. He was 21 years old. He was a combat engineer with the 2nd Battalion out of Camp Lejeune. He will never be forgotten!!!
During Vietnam, most Americans were divided between right and wrong. At 12 years old, the only thing I knew was baseball, warm summer nights catching fireflies, and swimming in the family pool. My older brother was over there, half a world away. Every day we would race to the mailbox to see if there were any letters, which we were not allowed to open until mom gave her approval. We would gather around mom at the dinner table and she would share Carl’s letters. About 6 weeks before he was scheduled to leave the country, the communication stopped. Every day you could see the stress build in mom’s eyes. Finally, after a few weeks, a letter. It was upbeat and had us all believing he was safe —but before he was due to leave country, communication came to a screeching halt. Agonizing days were spent waiting and wondering.
On a hot August day as I was gathering with friends for a baseball game, my sister came running up to me and shouted, “Come home now!” There was an urgency in her voice. “Not today,” I thought — it was my 13th birthday, and no one deserves to experience bad news on their birthday. As I entered the house, I could see mom was crying, but she wasn’t sad. Dad was screaming for a bottle of champagne, and out of the corner of my eye stood my hero, my brother, back from hell, and giving me the best birthday present ever.
22 July 2004 @ 1550 hrs, southern Iraq … in the shade.
My two sons, Marc Jr. and Josh Kennedy, joined the Marines after the 9/11 attacks. I am so proud of them for their determination to make a difference in this world. They are the reason I chose BAE Systems for employment — so that I, too, could help in some way to protect these men and women. Thank you, Marc and Josh. I love you with all my heart!
My son, John-Paul Cotton Mizell, was born on November 11, 2010 — Veterans Day. His Grandpa Roger (my husband’s father) came to Fort Worth from Hallsville, Texas, to see his newest grandchild and was the first to hold baby Cotton. Roger remarked that he missed his free meal at Applebee’s to be at the hospital. Three months earlier, Roger was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and was told he had 3-6 months left. He told his doctors that he had to fight the cancer long enough to see his grandson, who was due in November — and fight he did.
Although Grandpa Roger got to enjoy spending Christmas and New Year’s with Cotton, he eventually lost his battle with cancer in February 2011.
Roger Rudolph Mizell enlisted in the Army but missed going to Vietnam by a few months, I am told. Instead, he was stationed in Germany for four years. He loved God and his country and was proud of his service. Veterans Day will always be a special day for our family.
I spent Veterans Day 2011 defending freedom in southwestern Afghanistan. As we stood in a semicircle during our predawn operations order at the forward operating base, the silence of the moon falling into the horizon gave way to many chuckles after one of the Marines asked, “Since today is Veterans Day, can we have the day off?”
I do airbrushing as a hobby, and this is my personal tribute to fallen soldiers that I named "Freedom Pays Respect." It depicts a bald eagle bowing and paying respect to a fallen soldier. I airbrushed the 2' x 3' canvas in 2008 and donated it to the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central near Fort Knox. More of my patriotic work can be viewed at www.EagleEyeArtwork.com.
This is the front cover of my book, "A Biker-Soldier's Journey," which is full of the memories that include losing some friends while supporting the soldiers in Iraq.
Monty Van Horn
My husband, Lieutenant Brandon Cody Boggs, was the company commander for the 351st Ordnance Company in Afghanistan during 2012-2013. He has been a member of the U.S. armed forces for more than 16 years, serving as a non-commissioned officer in Iraq and then taking his commission and serving in Afghanistan. Cody and I were BAE Systems employees at Holston Army Ammunition Plant during his Iraq deployment. He is not only my hero, but a strong leader, an honorable soldier, and a wonderful dad.
In early 2012, my husband was able to take a brief trip home from his Afghanistan deployment for the birth of our son, Mason, returning to his duties in Afghanistan the day his family came home from the hospital. This photo, taken more than nine months later, captures one of the most special moments of our lives. My husband serves our country as a leader in the armed forces, and I have focused my career on creating improved munitions for the warfighter. Our son serves as a daily reminder of the importance of what we do.
I just retired from the U.S. Air Force after a 22-year intelligence career. I had the honor of serving with many wonderful colleagues as an exchange officer to the U.K. Royal Air Force and during many deployments from Bosnia, Afghanistan, and South Korea.
This picture is of my father, Captain Oscar Luis Acevedo of the U.S. Army infantry. He came from Cuba in the 1950s and immediately joined the Army. He took part in the Bay of Pigs and performed a couple of tours in Vietnam. Although he was not a U.S. citizen, he received a special commission that made him a captain. He passed away in 1982 of colon cancer.
My youngest son, Jeremy, served a tour in Afghanistan in 2008-09 and was injured in an IED explosion after being there only two weeks. He was the gunner in an MRAP (Buffalo), not ours, and was the only one hurt. He received a broken cheek bone, a cut on his face requiring 11 stitches, and a sore back. He was airlifted to Bagram Air Force Base after being treated at his forward operating base. Jeremy was in the infantry and could not wait to be back with his unit to fulfill his duties.
During the remaining time he served, Jeremy came under attack numerous times and had a rocket-propelled grenade come within a foot of his head. I am so proud of him for his service. It has been a slow process for him to get his life back to normal, and I salute him and those like him for their service to our country.
My grandfather, James Slough, volunteered for the U.S. Army upon graduating from high school in 1943. He saw action on Omaha Beach in the 29th Infantry Division, which also participated in the Normandy Invasion. After the war, James returned home and worked in the Hershey chocolate factory, where he met his future wife, Yolanda. When the Korean War started, he volunteered he was recalled. James was wounded during Operation Killer in 1951 and spent a year in the Boston VA hospital recovering from his wounds.
He later worked for the U.S. Air Force as a civilian until his retirement from government service. He and his wife raised three children, and he passed away in 2001.