UNION — A flagpole honoring the heroes and victims of the War on Terror and a presentation to a local soldier wounded in that war were all part of the “In Honor and Remembrance” ceremony at the Union County Fairgrounds on Tuesday.
On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 members of the Al-Qaida terrorist organization hijacked four airplanes. They crashed two of the planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and a third into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania during an attempt by the passengers to overpower the terrorists. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attack.
In the 11 years since, the United States and its allies have waged the War on Terror against Al-Qaida and its allies in Afghanistan and around the world. In Afghanistan, the United States toppled the Taliban regime, which provided sanctuary and support for Al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden, who ordered the 9/11 attack and other terrorist attacks against the United States, was killed by U.S. forces in 2011.
The heroes and victims of 9/11 and the War on Terror were honored Tuesday at the fairgrounds during a ceremony sponsored by the Woodmen of the World Union Lodge 323 and the Union County Fair Association. The ceremony featured the dedication of a flagpole and accompanying plaque which states “In Honor and Remembrance of the Heroes and Victims in the Fight Against Terrorism and to Celebrate the Enduring Spirit of All Americans.”
Paul Winters, field representative for Woodmen of the World and fair association executive director, hosted the event. Winters told the audience that the Woodmen had donated the flagpole and the fair association had provided the funds to have it erected.
Also speaking was Don Molineau, state manger for Woodmen who said that since 9/11, nearly 4,000 flagpoles have been dedicated during the organization’s In Honor and Remembrance ceremonies and that hundreds more would be dedicated this year.
“Woodmen of the World lodges across the country have been dedicating flagpoles and presenting flags not only to honor the heroes and victims of September 11, 2001, but also the men and women of our armed forces serving in combat,” Molineau said. “These ceremonies also pay tribute to the men and women here in the community who risk their lives daily to keep us safe — police officers, firefighters and emergency rescue personnel. They all deserve our thanks and admiration.”
Molineau pointed out the importance of the American flag atop the flagpole.
“Our nation’s flag atop the flagpole serves as a symbol of the enduring spirit of all Americans,” Molineau said. “The words of former president Ronald Reagan, spoken on another occasion, seem just as appropriate today. He said, ‘We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared so we may always be free.’
Molineau spoke of the terrible loss of life on 9/11, but also of the heroes who emerged that day and in the years since.
“Over 10 years ago, we experienced horrors that we never thought could occur in this land of freedom and opportunity,” Molineau said. “Thousands of American citizens and those of other countries lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
“Hundreds of heroes rose up during and after those attacks, and it is to them and those fighting to strengthen our freedom that we dedicate this ceremony,” he said. “Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.’”
One of those heroes was honored during the ceremony when Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair asked Keving Brewington to join him at the podium.
A Jonesville native, Brewington was serving with the 1-5 Infantry Unit of the 1/25 Stryker Brigade Combat Team in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan on Sept. 23, 2011 when he stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). The ensuing explosion cost Brewington his right leg above the knee and his left leg near his groin as well as causing him numerous other injuries which have required more than 20 surgeries to repair.
While he was not originally part of the program, Sinclair said he wanted Brewington to participate because of his heroism in service to his country.
“Kevin, about a year ago, you were in an IED attack that ultimately caused you to lose both legs and you have continuing issues with an arm,” Sinclair said. “While you lost the legs, you did not lose the spirit. I visited you shortly afterwards at Bethesda and well recall you correcting me as to where my old brigade and your current brigade — the Wolfhound Brigade — is now headquartered. You told me you were still a soldier. I left there knowing that you had true grit, and while it would be a long haul, you would make it.
“The enormity of the formidable task before you then was probably not much different from that which faced our forefathers in the Revolution, our fathers and grandfathers in World War II after Pearl Harbor, or the heroes this day 11 years ago as they approached the flaming twin towers,” he said. “They did not shy away. You have not shied away. Their grit and gumption as your grit and gumption to fight through despite the odds deserve recognition.”
Sinclair, himself an Army veteran, then presented Brewington with one of the coins he’d received as commanding general of the 228th Signal Brigade.
“I want you to accept this coin symbolically from me and other soldiers and first responders alike as we pass the responsibility and security of our nation and community to a younger group,” Sinclair said. “Know that we do so without fear or reservation for our future because of people like you and first responders. You have the grit. They have the grit. Just as this nation is a hero among nations and this community is a hero among communities, you are a hero among heroes.
“I present this coin as a representative from all the citizens here to you and hope you receive it as your represent soldiers and first responders here and everywhere,” he said. “This coin will not buy you anything, not even a cup of coffee. You cannot sell it for anything. But you can know it represents enormous gratitude from me and this community. That gratitude, my friend, has immeasurable worth and it cannot be bought or sold. I know I speak for all when I say, ‘God bless you our friend, our comrade, our hero.’”