On Thursday, Sept. 11 the PVHS Key Club, a Kiwanis sponsored youth group, held a memorial service for those who perished in the twin towers terrorist attacks 13 years ago. A respectable crowd of 65 to 70 people were in attendance.
After opening prayer by Pastor Ron Fairbairn, Key Club members Katlynn Stecker and Silvia Lopez sang the national anthem.
First responder, Matthew Braun, related his experience as a child and that of his father on that tragic day. Braun said, “My father, who was a first responder, and I were watching television when the program was interrupted with the horrid picture of the planes crashing into the two towers. My father said I’ve got to go, I have a job to do. He immediately got his gear together and left.
“After working around the clock in the rubble and ashes, pulling out the bodies and remains of bodies, he finally came home.
“Later my father was mentioned in a local broadcast as a hero. He said he wasn’t a hero. The ones who went into the buildings were the heros. I say that what he did helped bring closure to the families of those who died. That made him a hero.” The crowd showed their agreement with cheers and applause.
After he spoke, he and his father Ken Braun were presented with the American Flag with an eagle and twin towers emblazoned on it.
Jose Telles, a combat veteran of Korea and Vietnam, spoke next. He said, “I want to tell you why veterans of war come back changed.
“In battle, frontline warriors’ lives revolve around honor. In war, you give your word of honor to all your fellow warriors that you will do your duty and stand and fight with them. In combat, that’s when you earn honor. When you earn honor under fire, it changes you. When the firefight is going on it is scary but exciting. You become a hardened purified warrior. You are willing to die rather than break your word to your warrior friends.
“You feel alive after beating death and standing by those who made it with you. The sadness is when you see warrior friends fall wounded or killed. You feel guilty and tormented that you are still alive. Then you start living a lie, thinking you should have done something different.
“Now you live in a different world. Your world, now, is to wake up screaming to the sound of battle. Your world is seeing your warrior friend bleeding to death asking you to help him die. Your world is now about hand-to-hand combat. The distance of your world and the one you come home to is like the distance between Mars and Earth. You feel different because you are from another world, the warrior world.”
After Telles spoke, he received his hero’s welcome and was presented the American Flag with “Welcome home we’re proud of you” emblazoned across the flag.
Interviewed after the event, Telles said, “I served as a grunt in Korea and Vietnam. When we came home from the Korean war, a group of women were at the base. They ironed our uniforms so we could look our best. Marching down Broadway, people were lined up three to four rows deep cheering for us. As we drove from San Diego to Camp Pendleton, crowds in every town along the way, were out cheering for us.
“When I returned from Vietnam in 1966. We were taken to the PX to buy civilian clothes to wear off base.
“I didn’t realize why until I saw all the demonstrations and what was being said about the war.
“When I came back from my second tour in 1970. I refused to take off my uniform. At the airport the hippies were out demonstrating. One said something derogatory to me. On the plane, the man sitting next to me got up and had the stewardess move him. When I landed in El Paso, I tried getting a ride out of the truck stop but everyone ignored me. Finally a driver with the airport limo service gave me a ride home. He said he gave me a ride because his father served in World War II.”
When asked why he thought the country had turned against their warriors, he said, “Public figures and politicians citing isolated atrocities, inflaming demonstrators. In two tours, totaling 26 months, I was never involved or saw any of the things we were accused of doing.”
Contact author Creag Rowland by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.