PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio - Sailors assigned to the missile-guided cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) arrived at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, to honor the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack.
The small group of 10 Lake Erie Sailors joined the town residents as they remember the events of Sept. 11 during the Put-in-Bay Historical Weekend Sept 9-11. Put-in-Bay is a small island in Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio.
"Our nation was jolted into action one decade ago by the actions of terrorists," said Capt. William Johnson, Lake Erie commanding officer during his speech at the event. "Their goal was to weaken the United States. Instead, fueled by the desire for freedom and justice, they did the opposite; they strengthened us. We came together as one nation in a search to find and defeat those who struck the heart of America."
During the memorial, Johnson spoke about the late Lake Erie plankowner and former executive officer, Capt. Gerald Deconto, who lost his life when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon on Sept. 11. A plankowner is a person who was a crewmember during their ship's commissioning. Deconto was Lake Erie's first executive officer and was present during the ship's commissioning July 24, 1993.
"To this day, we keep a plaque and photo in the executive officer's stateroom to remember the sacrifice he made for our country," said Johnson.
Johnson was also assigned at the Pentagon but was on leave in California during the attack.
"My wife received a phone call from my superiors asking if she had seen me," said Johnson. "They didn't know I was on leave because my leave papers were burnt along with the rest of my office."
Johnson said he felt that he could easily have been there during the attack. Later, Johnson recounted a frustrating feeling on not being able to help out during the rescue and recovery effort after the attack.
"I felt guilty that I couldn't be there to help, but it absolutely renewed my dedication toward defending this country, defending out people and our way of life," said Johnson.
Put-in-Bay Mayor Judith Berry was also at the event and welcomed the Lake Erie Sailors to her town.
"This contingent is named after Lake Erie, so I feel there is that special bond," said Berry. "Our community loves having them, and just the representation of the Navy, any armed services here, especially at this 9/11 event is special thing for us. We very much appreciate the fact that they were here and share their thoughts with us."
Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Marcos Locero, Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class (SW) Dustin Ueltschy, Fire Controlman 3rd Class (SW) Chris Cooke, Logistics Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Joseph Reboja and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (SW) Lance Easton were part of Lake Erie's honor guard team. As part of the event, they presented the colors during the singing of the National Anthem and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ueltschy, an Ohio resident, recounted his own experiences during the events of Sept. 11.
"I remember when it happened, I just got back home from having my senior pictures taken," said Ueltschy. "I got my senior pictures taken for the yearbook. We were watching some TV with my mom. It was like a movie playing. It was so surreal, but I remember that day like it was yesterday."
Worldwide, the US Navy commemorated 9/11 with more than 50 events planned in 13 states nationwide.
According to Johnson, Lake Erie was on station shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 conducting strikes on terrorism in Afghanistan in support of carrier strike groups.
"There is now a wide acceptance for international cooperation when dealing with terrorism," said Johnson. "Terrorism worldwide cannot be justified nor will it be tolerated. Countries have joined together to fight against this threat, and we have made significant progress."
As of Sept. 7, 2011, a total of 8,293 individual augmentees, including 4,913 active duty and 3,380 Reserve Sailors supported the global war on terrorism.