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Nellis Community Honors 9/11, Global War on Terror Victims

Airmen in formation

Airman 1st Class Nathan Gilbert, 99th Security Forces Squadron defender, stands in a first responder formation during the 9/11 wreath laying ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. Members of the Nellis Air Force Base community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on America Sept. 11, 2001, and those who have lost their lives supporting the Global War on Terror with a special ceremony and flyover at the United States Air Force Warfare Center Headquarters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

Airman rings bell

Staff Sgt. Jordan Cui, 99th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department firefighter, rings the ceremonial bell during the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. The tradition of ringing the ceremonial bell spans over 200 years when firefighters would ring the bell to signal the beginning of the day’s shift. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

Airmen walking with a wreath

Col. Trent Tate, 99th Medical Group commander, carries a wreath during the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. Members of the Nellis Air Force Base community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on America Sept. 11, 2001, and those who have lost their lives supporting the Global War on Terror with a special ceremony and flyover at the United States Air Force Warfare Center Headquarters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

Airman saluting the American flag

The American flag is raised as an Airman salutes while the national anthem is played during at the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. Two Fire truck assigned to the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department hoisted a flag between two ladders that aided as background during the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

Chief Morgan gives a speech

Chief Master Sgt. Alex Morgan, 99th Air Base Wing command chief, gives a speech on his experience as a guest speaker during the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. Morgan said the 2,977 people who lost their lives, including 445 first responders who selflessly sacrificed themselves saving countless others, were the first casualties in the Global War on Terror. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

Airman looking up at the American flag

An Airman watches as the American flag is brought up between two fire trucks during the 9/11 wreath laying ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. This year marks the 20th anniversary paying tribute to the fallen first responders of the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

two pairs of airplanes flying

A pair of F-15’s and F-16’s aircrafts perform a missing man formation over the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. Members of the Nellis Air Force Base community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on America Sept. 11, 2001, and those who have lost their lives supporting the Global War on Terror with a special ceremony and flyover at the United States Air Force Warfare Center Headquarters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

Tony Rabonza in a interview

Tony Rabonza, 99th Civil Engineer fire department chief, is interviewed by media after the ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Sept. 10, 2021. Members of the Nellis Air Force Base community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on America Sept. 11, 2001, and those who have lost their lives supporting the Global War on Terror with a special ceremony and flyover at the United States Air Force Warfare Center Headquarters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

Members of the Nellis Air Force Base community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on America Sept. 11, 2001, and those who have lost their lives supporting the Global War on Terror with a special ceremony and flyover at the United States Air Force Warfare Center Headquarters Sept. 10, 2021.

Guests arrived at the ceremony surrounded by first responders as bagpipes played in the background.

The Fire Department Honor Guard raised the American Flag and then lowered it to half-staff to honor the fallen. The audience rose as retired North Las Vegas Fire Department Capt. Cedric Williams sang the National Anthem.

“Sept. 11, 2001, changed our lives forever and became a solemn part of history we will never forget,” said Tony Rabonza, Nellis AFB fire chief. “It changed the way we think, the way we act, the way we respond. We all come from different backgrounds and walks of life, but we stand side-by-side, stitched together, creating the interwoven framework that supports the weight of reliance on our capabilities to save lives and restore good order.”

Twenty years ago at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Time, hijacked Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. followed by Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.

After a battle for control between passengers and hijackers, Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m.

During the ceremony, North Las Vegas Deputy Fire Chief Gary Stover recalled the “heavy burden” the New York Fire Department faced. He and 12 others traveled 2,500 miles to New York City to offer whatever help was needed. Although their assistance wasn’t needed at Ground Zero, the team supported the Fire Department of New York by attending funerals to respect those who lost their lives.

“I cannot tell you how many funerals I attended that week, but it was at least one a day,” he said. “I spent many hours sitting alongside the FDNY members who lost someone special or in some cases their entire fire station. It was a surreal moment in time for me personally, to really feel the magnitude of what had just happened.”

Command Chief Master Sergeant Alex Morgan III, 99th Air Base Wing command chief, said the 2,977 people who lost their lives, including 445 first responders who selflessly sacrificed themselves saving countless others, were the first casualties in the Global War on Terror.

“They answered their call to duty without hesitation, and then that call was passed on. Our military was asked to respond, to defend our nation, our institutions and our way of life,” he said.

Morgan shared his memories as an explosive ordinance, disposal, technician, and weapons intelligence team leader in Iraq and Afghanistan and the stories of two service members who were killed – Marine Staff Sgt. David Lyons and Gunnery Sgt. Chris Eastman.

“Chris, Dave and the thousands of others will never be forgotten. Even as the years pass and our next generation steps forward, we will remember them,” he said.

Morgan noted that we closed the chapter on Afghanistan 11 days ago.

“Challenges will continue to test, but now deter our resolve. But because of you, we were and will remain the world’s greatest military. When asked, we will always be ready, and our nation’s men and women will never die in vain,” he added.  

To respectfully recognize the memories of the people killed Sept. 11, 2001, and the days following, along with the 7,000 service members who died fighting the Global War on Terror, the ceremony concluded with a traditional firefighter’s Ringing of the Bell Ceremony followed by bagpipes playing Amazing Grace and a wreath laying.

Then, Taps was played as a missing man formation assembled by a pair of F-16’s and F-15’s flying over the base as a final aerial salute to the fallen.

“Today, we honor those who have served before us, give praise to those who currently serve with us and share our traditions to those who will take our places and serve in the future. We are first responders, and we will continue to strengthen the core of our existence and to serve humbly each and every day,” said Rabonza.