ince Louis Daguerre took the first photograph of a person accidentally while sitting at a Paris cafe, it has become so that an event, no matter how significant, does not seem to be reality unless a camera makes it so. A little known event that occurred at the Pentagon on that horrific day of September 11, 2001, proved this idea to be true. A young Marine Lance Corporal raised the first battle flag on the still very unstable section of the building that was hit. I had the honor of helping the young man get to his objective.
I was now officially out of the Corps and was a member of 20th Special Forces Group. Of course, my heart still belonged to my beloved Marine Corps. In fact, one of the SSG chevrons I wore had the crossed rifles I had earned as a Marine. As it goes, in the midst of the chaos of the surreal scene on September 11th, a Special Forces General approached me and ordered me to accompany a young Marine who had appeared on the scene with a small US flag to the roof of the Pentagon. To defiantly hoist our Colors for the world to see?!? I eagerly agreed. What an honor! It was reminiscent of the flag raising on Iwo that had become our symbol of courage and honor.
I had the gear to facilitate the posting of the Colors (duct tape, 550 cord, etc). He had the flag. We were supposed to represent the Army and the Marine Corps but above all our Nations spirit. We climbed into a cart suspended by a cable with the operator. The cart began to sway erratically. It was clear that only two could ascend. That meant either the Marine would have to leave or I would. The general ordered me to tell the Marine to get out of the cart.
was going to
raise that flag,
it would be
Every part of me recognized how wrong that was. Every part of me recognized that if anyone was going to raise that flag, it would be a Marine in uniform. I approached the Marine and told him what happened. At the point of seeing his shock and disappointment I informed him that I served in the Corps for nine and a half years. I went on to further explain that the general had picked the wrong soldier for this mission. With a "Semper Fi", a wink, and a smile, I handed him my gear and tearfully walked away from the now ascending cart.
In the darkness, the general watched as the cart climbed higher and higher. Then, at the moment it was near the top, he realized what had transpired. The Army did not get theirs that day. He angrily turned toward me, trying to make out my name, while scolding me at the same time. I told him that I apologize but I was a Marine at heart. He furiously walked away from me.
I only saw the Lance Corporal when he returned. He too had tears of pride in his eyes. I shook his hand and asked him if he was now a "lifer". He smiled and answered in the affirmative.
I can not find the words to describe how blessed I feel that I was in that spot that day and at that time where I could help my Marine Corps one more time. So, to all my brothers and sisters in and out of uniform...Semper Fidelis! Know that that day, when the firemen were immortalized in New York raising our Flag, a young anonymous Marine had done the same in Washington D.C. in the spirit of our great Nation and United States Marine Corps.
The cameras were not there. All that remains are the image in our hearts and minds of the Marine pridefully planting our Colors and saluting while a crowd stopped watched, saluted, and fought back tears and were newly inspired to dig through the still smoldering debris.
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