By Julie Svoboda
Retired combat veterans Todd Mercer and Ric Levine stood outside the chapel at US Army base Panzer Kaserne near Stuttgart, Germany, waiting for the ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks to begin.
Lepine reflected on his service and the weight of this anniversary.
“Any milestone anniversary has significance, and certainly 20 years is a significant amount of time, it’s the period of time that most people will serve in the military to retire.” Lepine said. “With the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan, it brings into focus this anniversary that much more in that we were in that country for nearly 20 years because of the events of 9/11 20 years ago.”
Lepine noted that eventually, memorial ceremonies will change.
“It’s still in living memory of people who are in service, or people who entered service because of that event,” Lepine said. “In future anniversaries, 40, 50, 60, it will diminish as a personal memory much as the events of World War II have, but for me, for us right now, this is a very important milestone, a very important ceremony, a very important remembrance of what happened that day and what was visited upon our country and what our country did in response and the way our country pulled back together.”
During the ceremony, members of scouting troops from the base took turns reading a timetable of the September 11 attacks as a scout rang a bell to punctuate when deaths occurred. Scouts then escorted representatives from the American Legion, the Association of the United States Army, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Stuttgart Clan of Motorcycle Enthusiasts Association, and the Combat Vets Association to the front to present their memorial wreaths.
US Army Chaplain Robert B. Allman spoke about the importance of remembering the lives lost on September 11, 2001, as well as the sacrifice of servicemembers during the war in Afghanistan during the closing remarks.
“We grieve with them still all these years later even as we remember in our minds, but more significantly as we have embodied this memory through acts of singing, striking bells, speaking out loud and hearing the moment-by-moment tragic events that unfolded in real-time before the world’s eyes twenty years ago today,” he said. “When we remember as we join together as a community, we embody hope and healing for ourselves and those we share this day’s event and stories with.”