September 11: A Time for Reflection

An "Alive Day," a term well-known to those who are or have been in the military, is the anniversary of a day that you came close to death. It is not cause for an open celebration; rather, it serves as a day of reflection. In 2007, James Gandolfini produced the HBO documentary "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq". He did a remarkable job capturing the essence of Alive Days for a generation impacted by the shockwaves of September 11.

September 11 is akin to an Alive Day and a time that veterans and military families remember because so many of us are inexplicitly linked to it. Approximately 2.5 million service members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq in what is now known as the post-9/11 era, and the veteran population from this era is expected to nearly double in size by 2043.

I led many of these service members during service in Iraq, including as the Brigade Commander in the volatile Diyala Province for 15 months in 2006-2007. I watched my troops carry out remarkable feats of bravery and perform selfless acts of courage. They demonstrated all the qualities one could want in the toughest of situations -- smarts, guts and compassion.

I feel the same way about the first responders whose selfless actions saved so many lives on September 11, 2001, even as many gave their own. Their courage and the example they set provided a foundation for our follow-on bravery in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is attributed with the saying,

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

His words capture the essence of Alive Day.

On September 11 I will arise remembering those with whom I served, those first responders in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, and the victims of that terrible day in our nation's history. I invite you to do the same.

I also encourage you to take a look at this ABC News segment about "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq." It's a powerful reminder of the phenomenal men and women who answered the call of service in the post-9/11 era and did their part to live up to the Warrior Ethos.