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Stories Behind the Faces

"On September 11 in the "fog of battle" in New York, Washington, and on a plane over Pennsylvania, once again heroes were born. As thousands screamed and ran in terror from a burning, towering inferno...hundreds of firefighters, police officers, and rescue workers ran into it. On a plane destined for suicide, four men chose to overpower hijackers regardless of their own fate so that perhaps thousands could be saved.

We who watched their acts of heroism and selfless care for others stand in awe and are humbled. We call them heroes.

In Rochester there is a memorial to Vietnam veterans, to their survivors, to our community, and to our nation. It is a memorial to commemorate, to educate, and to heal. One of the most striking parts of that memorial is a life size statue of a soldier walking into a reflective, black granite wall. As I sat before this statue on the morning of September 13, I thought about those who had so determinedly ran into the World Trade Center. I thought about those four men on that plane. What made these individuals choose to act as they did? What or who was guiding them through their "fog of battle"? I then looked again at the statue and wondered what was it that made this soldier like so many others willing to walk so resolutely into the blackness, the darkness of eternity, the "fog of battle".

As I struggled to find an answer I got up and walked to the statue. As I ran my hand over the blackness of the granite, I walked behind the wall to look at two large stones set behind it. Inscribed on the stones were the words... "God...Duty...Honor...Country".

The answer was given to me. What is it that some see that others do not? What is it that guides and directs them through the chaos, confusion, and "fog of battle"? What is it that enables them to walk into the valley of death... "God...Duty...Honor...Country".

As we enter this battle, we as a people need to realize that it is not our riches, our wisdom, nor our strength that makes this a great nation. What makes this nation great is our God and those who during the battles see only Him, their Duty to others... and who during the battles choose to act and live in a way that brings Honor to Him and our Country."

Gary B. Beikirch
US Army Special Forces
Medal of Honor, Vietnam