NEW YORK – The National Guard’s top officer capped a day of 9/11 commemorations by reaffirming the service oaths for 24 new or reenlisting National Guard Soldiers and Airmen in Times Square.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, attended the 22nd annual commemoration of the attacks at the World Trade Center Memorial in lower Manhattan in the morning. He also appeared on the MSNBC “Morning Joe” program to discuss the impact of the 9/11 attacks on the National Guard.
The oath affirmation event occurred at the Army Recruiting Station in Times Square.
Hokanson, who graduated from West Point in 1986, thanked the Soldiers and Airmen for their commitment to serve and hoped they enjoyed their careers as he had.
“It is an incredible experience,” Hokanson said. “If I could do it all over again, I would. There are so many amazing things you will get to see in your career, and I hope you enjoy it and thank you.”
The Airmen and Soldiers included several who were not born on Sept. 11, 2001, and others with vivid memories and service experience from 22 years ago.
Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Cincotta, a flight engineer assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing with more than 37 years of service, reenlisted for one more year before his planned retirement.
“It’s a special day here, especially in New York,” Cincotta said, “so having an opportunity to be here, especially with these young folks for their first enlistment and my last, is kind of a memorable moment, so I’m excited about it.”
The ceremony in Times Square was a fitting way to honor the Guard’s role in the 9/11 response so many years ago, said Master Sgt. Jeffrey Miller. A maintenance squadron first sergeant in the 105th Airlift Wing, who reenlisted for three more years of service to cap his current 24.
“What better place to do it?” Miller said. “I’m part of the New York wing, and we’re in New York City and this is a great venue to reenlist in.”
Army National Guard Pvt. Liam Kirk, who said he had a family connection to the 9/11 attacks, agreed.
“For me, the National Guard is just something I admired since I was five years old,” Kirk said.
“My grandfather was in the towers when they fell, he survived. The ability to be here, on that day, to commemorate that, to be part of the service that is committed to defending the homeland, is incredibly important,” Kirk said.
Army National Guard Pvt. Carlos Lindo also said he was inspired by the events of that day to enlist.
“I’m here today because those people (first responders) that died on that tragic day, they did out of selfless service and I’m here to do the same and set an example for others to do the same,” Lindo said.
Airman Sean Egbert, a newly enlisted fire suppression specialist assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., saw connections to his fellow Airmen and his family in the ceremony.
“Personally, I saw it as an opportunity to bond with my student flight. A number of us volunteered to come out here today. I felt inspired, I guess, to come out here. My father was on the FDNY (Fire Department New York), my brother just joined the FDNY and I’m on the FDNY EMS, so it’s actually a big day for me,” he said.
Others said they had childhood memories of the dramatic day.
“It was special to come out here because I saw 9/11 when I was in the third grade,” said Airman Christopher Garcia, who enlisted in the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Security Forces Squadron following nine years of military service with the Army and Army National Guard as an infantryman.
“I literally watched it on TV; it was a day you don’t forget. A once in a lifetime experience. I thought it would be pretty dope to take an oath and swear in on 9/11,” he said.
Other reenlisting NCOs had their own memories of responding to the day.
Miller said he was working with his father that day in 2001, saw what happened, and like thousands of other New York National Guard members, immediately went home, put on a uniform and reported to his wing.
“From that day forward, it was 12-hour shifts, and we were working to support all the heavy equipment and personnel coming down to the city,” Miller said. “I was a young Airman back then, with about two years of service.”
Airman William Barrow, who at age 40 had required a waiver for his age to enlist in the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing, said the ceremony strengthened his commitment to service.
Barrow, a retired New York firefighter and a veteran of the department’s 9/11 response, sought to join the Guard to serve in a new way.
“I was here, Sept. 11. I was part of the fire department, a first responder,” Barrow said. “There’s nothing stronger than the heart of the volunteer. I love service; that’s why I’ve done it my whole life and I think this is the final chapter of service in my life.”
“I almost lost my life that day; being here to get sworn in on 9/11 is definitely pretty cool. It’s bittersweet and has been so long ago. I think this is great,” he said.