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Western Air Defense Sector unveiled 9/11 memorial at JBLM

The only 9/11 memorial on a military installation in Washington state

The inside display at the Western Air Defense Sector Headquarters Bldg on JBLM. On the left: Flight 93 Memorial debris; center: Pentagon stone; right: steel from WTC. Courtesy photo

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When America marked the 13th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in recent history on Sept. 11, the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) on Joint Base Lewis-McChord held a commemorative event, during which it unveiled a poignant memorial. It is the only 9/11 memorial on a military installation within the state of Washington.

"It went well beyond our expectations," said WADS Col. William Krueger. "It was somber of course because it was a remembrance of those that lost their lives, but we couldn't have asked for a better day weather-wise or a better turnout."

The event featured a guest speaker, 9/11 first responder and retired police inspector Steven R. Saymon, and the display was dedicated in memory to the first responders who died that day and in honor of the mission of WADS and the National Guard, especially as it applies to 9/11. While the numbers are beginning to dwindle, many of the WADS operators were on duty on the day of the attacks.

WADS is a joint, bi-national organization which provides air sovereignty, strategic air defense and airborne counter-drug operations.  Its area of responsibility covers over 2.2 million square miles west of the Mississippi River, encompassing 15 centers of gravity and two thousand miles of border with Mexico.

Just one day prior to 9/11, the air defense mission was more about external threats to the U.S. and was relatively status quo, however, since the attacks, the air defense infrastructure has increased six-fold; partnerships with the Federal Aviation Administration and Customs and Border Protection have strengthened and the entire WADS mission has been expanded.  

"Two years ago we started exploring an option to get an artifact and then began to discuss where we could place the display here," said Krueger, who started the entire process and eventually oversaw the memorial's creation with the building's heritage committee.

"I've been in this building for fifteen years and I'm getting closer to retirement, so I want to preserve this story and these memories for the young people who have never experienced it," he explained. "This changed the purpose of WADS and so I think it is important that future generations who work in this building see something tangible as a reminder."

The memorial will hold three donated, museum-grade artifacts from the sites of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The three items are a shard of steel from the World Trade Center in New York City; stone and debris from the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and, finally, a large piece of limestone recovered from The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. In the center there is also a preserved flag that was flown around the nation's capital, as part of a training mission. The display case itself was handcrafted by 1st Lt. Angela Chesley, a WADS air weapons officer.

"WADS, in conjunction with the Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome, New York and the National Capital Region, will stand watch for the foreseeable future to ensure that something like this never happens again," Krueger stated.

As part of that mission, WADS is a part of Operation NOBLE EAGLE, a constant on-going operation that rapidly evolved from an improvised response and temporary expedient into a permanent defense requirement and major force commitment involving thousands of airmen from the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Air Force in the months after 9/11.

"We must remember the attacks, the victims and our required vigilance," Krueger concluded.

The memorial will be a permanent installation located in the lobby on the first floor of the WADS Headquarters building on JBLM. 

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