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9/11: Never Forget Those Who Sacrificed


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It's been 11 years since that awful day in 2001 when thousands of innocent people were murdered after they settled into a desk chair or an airplane seat.

They would die when planes heavy with fuel slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon across the river from Washington, and an empty field in Pennsylvania.

Thus began the global war on terror -- the longest war in American history.

It isn't over. American troops continue to battle in Afghanistan. Some are making the ultimate sacrifice, and others are coming home with terrible wounds.

Private First Class Kyle Hockenberry, a soldier from the Ohio River town of Marietta, lost most of both legs and his left arm in the explosion of a land mine that he stepped on during a firefight with insurgents.

He was wounded while on foot patrol June 15, 2011, just a year after graduating from Frontier High School. In an interview with the Marietta Times newspaper while undergoing rehab, he said he had no regrets about joining the Army.

"I just always wanted to fight for my country," Hockenberry said. "I'd do it all over again if I could."

Before he deployed with the First Infantry Division, Hockenberry got a tattoo on the right side of his torso. It reads: "For those I love, I will sacrifice."

Hockenberry underwent multiple surgeries and skin grafts, but doctors worked around the tattoo so that those words would survive with him.

A house designed to help Hockenberry cope with his disabilities is being constructed for him in Marietta by the "Building for America's Bravest" program, which is sponsored in part by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

The foundation was created to remember the efforts of Stephen Siller, one of 343 New York City firefighters who died while responding to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. As thousands of people fled the burning Twin Towers, Siller made his way to the scene to help in rescue efforts. Traffic was jammed, so he ran for several miles -- in firefighter gear that included 60 pounds of equipment -- through a roadway tunnel to the towers. After the collapse of the towers, his body couldn't be found.

The path Siller took was retraced by participants in the first Tunnel to Towers Run in New York. Several other cities have held such runs to honor Siller's dedication and sacrifice that day -- and to raise funds for the children of survivors, injured firefighters, and U.S. troops wounded in the war on terror.

The first Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run Cincinnati will be held this Sunday, September 9, at Spring Grove Cemetery. I'll be among those who run in the 5K. Part of the proceeds will help pay for the house for Hockenberry. He is just one of many who need our help.

Ceremonies also have been scheduled throughout Ohio's Second Congressional District for this Tuesday, September 11, to recall the victims of the terrorist attacks and to show support for our troops. If you can't attend one, I hope you will say a prayer or observe a moment of silence.

Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that planned and funded the cowardly attacks on people who could not defend themselves, has been chased back into the sandstorm from which it emerged a couple of decades ago.

The organization's leader, Osama bin Laden, hid out in a ramshackle house in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, where he spent his days recording threats that were transmitted over the Internet or broadcast on radio and television stations.

Despite years of looking over his shoulder, staying out of sight, and avoiding using the telephone, bin Laden was located by U.S. intelligence agents. He was killed last year during a daring raid by a team of U.S. Navy SEALS.

But remnants of al Qaeda still hope to find a way to terrify our nation. Bin Laden's twisted legacy was to poison the minds of his followers to spread a doctrine of hate.

And so America must remain vigilant.

We must maintain a strong military.

And we must never forget the men and women who have sacrificed for those they loved.

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