Tuesday, September 13, 2011

South Carolina Remembers and Honors

The Honor Guard

Story and Photos
by Vernetta E. Garcia
Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Columbia

Despite the South Carolina heat, hundreds gathered at the downtown Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. The ceremony honored 47 South Carolina first responders, who gave their lives in the line of duty since the September 11, 2001 tragedy. A memorial dedicated to their memory was unveiled. The memorial includes two beams recovered from the World Trade Center placed between two 25 foot granite towers with the names of the first responders engraved in them.
Keynote speakers, Columbia Mayor Steven Benjamin and S.C. Governor Nikki Haley, paid tribute to first responders including law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, and the military and their families. “I want to thank so much the first responders, their families that sacrificed and showed such bravery,” said Governor Haley.
“It’s so heartwarming to know other people won’t forget,” said Annie Cannon, whose son Keith Cannon a Richland County sheriff’s deputy, died in the line of duty in 2005.
The ceremony also included an F-16 aircraft and helicopter flyover that left the crowd awe struck. White Knoll High School in Lexington, S.C.  was recognized for funds raised for a new fire truck for the New York City Fire Department Ladder 101. The tribute concluded with an honor guard giving a roll call of the fallen heroes, a 21-gun salute, taps, and “God Bless America” by a local pipes and drum corps.
Former Command Sgt. Major of Army Recruiting, Command Sgt Major (retired) Marty Wells led a 44 member honor guard.  They were comprised of police, firefighters, and servicemembers from around the state.  The honor guard gave the roll call of each the first responders.  Master Sgt. Kenneth Diaz, Columbia Recruiting Battalion Army Reserve Senior Guidance Counselor, was a lead member of the honor guard and ensured all names were called and completed the roll call. “Being born and raised in New York City, I have never felt more humbled and honored to have participated in such a historic event.”
Wells, currently the Strategic Outreach Coordinator 81st Regional Support Command said, “I was honored to take part in this event honoring American Heroes.  I trust we touched some hearts today; their service and sacrifice definitely touched mine.”
Command Sgt Major (retired) Marty Wells and Master Sgt. Kenneth Diaz in front of the memorial

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