24th MEU (SOC) Marines remember September 11

5 Sep 2002 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 impacted the lives of Americans around the world in many ways.  The first anniversary of the attacks marks a special time to remember those affected by the tragedy.

During this time Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) took time to recall how the events affected them and what it means for them to be currently deployed with the MEU.

For Lance Cpl. Kevin James, communications section, 24th MEU last September 11 was a day spent worrying about a family member who worked in the World Trade Center.

"I have an uncle who worked for the Port Authority in the World Trade Center," said James. "I was working at 8th Communications Battalion at Camp Lejeune when I heard that someone had flown planes into the towers."

Once he heard the news, the East Brunswick, N.J. native said he spent the rest of the day trying to get in touch of his uncle but was unsuccessful due to the phone lines in New York being jammed.

"Finally I got word from another member of my family that he was all right," said James. "It turns out that he missed his train that morning and was late for work. He was walking into the building just as the second plane hit."
With such a connection to the terrorist attacks James said he is very excited about being on this deployment.

"I'm just glad I have this opportunity to defend my country," he said. "It's also great to have the amount of support we have back home."
Another Marine with a special connection to the attacks is Capt. Harry L. Gardner, adjutant, 24 th MEU (SOC).

"My brother was working in the Pentagon as an aide to the Commandant of the Marine Corps when the plane hit," said the Fairfax, Va. native. "I was deployed with the MEU in Kosovo at the time and was conducting a tour for a vice admiral when a Swedish guard gave me word of what had happened in New York."

Once he heard the news, Gardner said he got back to Camp Bondsteel (Kosovo) and saw everything on TV. It was there he learned that the Pentagon was also hit.
"I knew my brother was in there and didn't know if he was hit or not," he said. "I began sending e-mails out to see if he was okay."

"About 24 hours later I got a response back saying he was all right, but that was a rough 24 hours," said Gardner.

He also thinks that September 11 has had a major influence on this deployment.
"I think we have the same likelihood as the 26th MEU did to end up in the next hot zone," said Gardner. "This has definitely made me think more about being prepared for something to happen."

For Sgt. Alex VanBreukelen, supply section, 24th MEU (SOC), and Long Island, N.Y. native, September 11 is a day that people all over the country were brought together, and a day that made the people of New York realize there is more in life that just New York.

"I know a few people that lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center." No one in my immediate family, but people I knew growing up. That has had an affect on me."

As far as being on deployment with the MEU right now, VanBreukelen can't think of anywhere else he would want to be.

"I think September 11 has made everyone 100 percent operational," he said. "People on the ships are not worried about liberty (time off). They are waiting for something to happen and they are definitely ready to go and get some if they need to.

With memory of September 11 so strong in the minds of the Marines and Sailors currently deployed, the MEU is planning an observance on the anniversary.  The MEU will also screen an Emmy-nominated Home Box Office documentary about the attacks called "In Memoriam."

The MEU and the USS Nassau (LHA-4) will also conduct a video teleconference with students from schools in Ocean City, N.J. This will offer the opportunity for the Marines and Sailors to describe deployed life to young people interested in the experience.