The 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Summit: Remembrance, Renewal, Resilience
By Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
Washington DC – As the Newseum’s Annenberg Theatre lights perked back to life following the debut of a powerful new wounded warrior documentary film, even the most casual observer knew there wasn’t a dry eye to be found.
Yes, most folks were touched and visibly moved by Jay Lavender’s new film, ‘Wounded Warriors’ Resilience’. The short documentary was produced as part of a series commemorating the 10th anniversary of September 11 focused on the stories of remembrance, renewal, and resilience told by Army and Marine warriors wounded in combat.
- MAJ Justin Constantine, a Marine Corps tanker who wasn’t able to communicate with an adjacent vehicle during battle took the initiative to leave the safety of his Abrams M-1 tank only to be shot and severely wounded by an enemy sniper. His life ultimately was saved by a young Marine who exited the tank under fire to pull back the wounded officer. Today, he continues an active lifestyle pursuing many new sports, including adaptive golf, and works with the Wounded Warrior Project helping fellow wounded warriors.
- SPC C.J. Stewart, an Army Medic whose job was to save others lives on the field of battle, but ultimately became a casualty himself after his arm was just about blown off. A fellow Soldier, with little regard for his own safety, traversed open ground with threats of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) everywhere to reach his fallen comrade and render first-aid. Stewart, despite losing lots of blood, had the presence of mind to instruct his buddy how to correctly apply the tourniquet, tightening it harder, harder and even harder-a procedure that ultimately would save his arm and probably his life.
- 1LT Tyson Quink, an Army West Point graduate and standout football player with the Black Knights was still new to war was when he was blown up by an IED. When a buddy reached him to render aid and yelled, “…where’s your tourniquet? Quink responded like a battle-tested and experienced Solider is trained to do. He calmly pointed to a medical pouch strapped to one of his severed legs that was several yards away from his body. The young officer almost didn’t make it to the Annenberg Theater for the Summit. He had just returned from a funeral for a fellow U.S. Military Academy classmate, already his fourth.
- 1LT (Ret.) Denis Oliverio, a Marine shot by an enemy sniper. The bullet found its mark and ultimately penetrated his head causing severe injury and ultimately scores of follow-up surgeries. Not embittered by his injuries that required major reconstructive surgery, he relearned how to talk. He holds no grudge against the combatant responsible for his condition, ‘he was doing his job and I was doing mine’.
- COL Gregory A. Gadson, Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Director, lost both legs while serving in Iraq. The field artillery officer was traveling in a convoy when his vehicle was blown up by an IED. His inspirational story of perseverance, grit, and determination is well known but he attributes his renewal and resilience to his strong faith in God and his Family. ‘First of all, I was able to lead men into combat–this was an absolute honor. Most days I like who I am, and I am here today for all those wounded warriors before me. I believe it is my responsibility to do all I can to make it better for those who come after me.’
In a unique format, the film was shown with little introduction to a full house of 400 specially invited 9/11 Summit guests. A panel discussion with several wounded warriors featured in the film was moderated by Univision correspondent Ilia Calderon. Also joining the panel was GEN Peter Chiarelli, Army Vice Chief of Staff, and The Honorable W. Scott Gould, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Panelists were able to convey personal stories of remembrance, renewal and resilience, along with touching first-hand attributions that continue to impact them even today. These stories without a doubt have become the fabric of life in and out of battle following the catastrophic events of 9/11 that took nearly 3,000 lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA.
A broadcast team from the Pentagon Channel was in attendance, too. Airing of the ceremony which included interviews with Gadson and Quink will soon be broadcast and available for viewing on the Pentagon Channel’s website.
The day-long 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Summit included other films and panel discussions moderated by political icons and senior broadcaster Dan Rather. Each session topic focused on the extraordinary stories of unity, selflessness, and resiliency surrounding historic events that followed. In unique fashion, the summit also was forward-looking as panelists, featured speakers, and guests called on Americans to honor the day by making a commitment to embrace emergency preparedness, and serve the nation with a renewed focus and energy in building community and national resilience.