On the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Auburn University's Naval ROTC paid tribute to the victims of the 2001 September tragedies and the selfless service of men and women in uniform across the country.
As rain fell on the morning of Sept. 11, 2009, across the front lawn of the University's William F. Nichols Center, civilians and uniformed service men and women ceremoniously drew the U.S. flag at half mast.
Honored attendees included Auburn's NROTC, U.S Military and Auburn's Police and Fire departments.
As Commanding Officer Captain Dell W. Eppherson read President Obama's White House release proclaiming Sept. 11 as the nation's official Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, Eppherson marked the Sept. 11 attacks as the day that will stay with us long after they are gone.
According to the White House, last April Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Service America Act, which named Sept. 11 as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. The bill was brought into legislation by the family members who lost loved ones in 9/11 in order to pay tribute to those who had died.
The bill encourages the public to honor all service men and women and participate in actions of service for the public good.
Major Jeff Dyal, Marine Officer Instructor at Auburn's NROTC said the Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance are not just about the military, but sacrifices of all heroes, those that are uniformed in our own communities and throughout our country.
"I have multiple friends who are firefighters and service men. These are the people who are going to protect our country," said Morgan Bridges, a senior in microbiology and co-president of the Mariners, a signature service group that provides support for Auburn's ROTC and service men and women in the community, about the honorees of the service and remembrance event.
According to the official New York City's governmental Web site, New York City lost 343 members of the fire department and 23 members from the police department who lost their life in the line of duty to save more than 3,000 people that perished on that September morning.
"What we tried to do today was bring in the fire department and the entire police department to recognize those uniformed that sacrifice daily for the betterment of our country," Dyal said.
According to the Department of Defense there have been a total of 5,159 casualties in the Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan mission as of Sept. 10, 2009.
The operations being sought out in the Middle East are different than those fought in wars past.
"This is a counter insurgency war," Dyal said. "It is not conventional. Our military force is typically built to fight a conventional fight, military against military."
Despite negative press and controversial political views, civilians are still enlisting into the military. Auburn ROTC has seen a rise of applicants since 2001. Dyal suggested the reasoning behind the increase is because applicants see the importance of the military.
"They see the reasoning behind and the importance behind it and they want to be a part of that," Dyal said.
It was only 21 years ago Major Jeff Dyal enlisted into the military right after high school. With no military family background, Dyal wanted to be nothing more than a Marine.
"It is not a money thing; it is much larger than that," Dyal said. "It is about being a part of something larger than yourself. That give back is about your conscious and your heart, that satisfaction of now serving your country."
Even though Dyal said it is often discouraging for soldiers to fight with such controversy, he notices a rise of unification on the anniversary of tragic events.
"These kinds of events like today (9/11 memorial) are important because they bring out the importance of what it is we are doing and why it is that we are doing it," Dyal said.
Ashley Mundy, co-president of the Mariners and a sophomore majoring in English, said the Sept. 11 anniversary was a reminder of how the country came together amongst shock and horror and how the military rose to the call of duty despite an unknown fate.