"Not the victory but the action. Not the goal but the game.
In the deed the glory."

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years Later - A Soldier Remembered

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I'm sure everyone remembers what they were doing that day. For me, I had just started at ConAgra about 2 weeks ago. We had our sales managers flying in for a quarterly review. I remember one of them saying there was a problem with the flights because of a fire at the WTC. We watched it on TV down in the Executive Conference Room. I remember watching in horror as the first tower fell and then the second shortly thereafter. My wife was still in Grad school at the time, and we were both in Omaha, and we had plans to meet for lunch at Trinis in the Old Market. We had lunch and talked about the days events in shock. I remember wondering if I would get called up to pull security, which I did a few months later, 30 days at Eppley Airport. We watched Fox News around the clock for the next few weeks it seems like.

For some, the memories are still more powerful and more painful. The family and friends of SFC Jose Orlando Calderon-Olmedo are one of these groups. SFC Calderon died at the Pentagon on 9/11, one of 245 victims of this senseless and cowardly attack. SFC Calderon was 44 at the time of his death and was originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was assigned to the G1 (personnel) staff so he worked in an office with people who do the same jobs as the group of guys I work with here, albeit at a much higher level. SFC Calderon had 19 years in the Army, and was looking forward to getting his 20 years and his retirement.

I was able to get in contact with one of SFC Calderon's co-workers, and she was kind enough to provide me a personal story about Jose. Her name is Sylvia and she had this to say:

I met SFC Calderon when I was assigned to G1 at the Pentagon in March of 2001. As I assumed my duties I learned that he was our Supply Sergeant for the entire directorate. Because most of the senior NCOs were assigned in our office, SFC Calderon would find his way to our area on a daily basis to say hello and we would sit and talk, drink our coffee, and discuss NCO business and also talk about our families and most importantly talk about what we were all going to do after we all reached retirement. You see, SFC Calderon had 19 years and all he ever talked about was retiring the following year.

As we all got to know each other, we started spending at least two days out of the week running out to Fort Meyer and Fort McNair for lunch. It was because of SFC Calderon having a Pentagon parking pass we were able to do this. He would come around and pick us NCOs up and haul us over there to enjoy a good meal at a reasonable price, and of course fellowship with each other. This running to Fort McNair or Fort Meyer on a weekly basis soon became something that we all looked forward to and became apart of our weekly thing to do.

On Sept 11th, 2001, everything changed.

Of the personnel who were unaccounted for on that day, little did I know that there would be no more weekly trips taken or conversations with Jose.

The weeks went by and then the months and still Jose was still listed as missing.

His vehicle that he drove weekly to take us back and forth was still where he had left it on that day. His OIC asked for someone to volunteer to drive his vehicle back to his wife, because she did not have a driver's license. I stepped up and volunteered to do that task, because one I felt I owed it to him and two I knew where he parked his car everyday, for he would try to park it in the same area all the time as we returned back from our weekly trips. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

His memorial service was one that was coordinated beautifully by the G1 family. Although he was still listed as missing, I knew that soon he would be given the burial service that he so much deserved.

Unfortunately, in December my job required me to be TDY, and it was during this time that I was away; he finally was given the burial service that he earned and so well deserved, so I missed his burial service. Although I missed his burial service, I had him and his family in my thoughts and prayers that day.

Every year as we get closer and closer to Sept 11th, I think of Jose and his family. I pray for him and his family and hope he knows what a great NCO he was.

Jose, it you could hear me now, I would like to thank you for all you did for our country and tell you what a great hero you were and that you are truly missed. I would like to thank you for all those trips to the DFAC you took us on; despite the hectic traffic we faced coming and going. Those trips were memorable to me and became a part of my life back then, something that I looked forward to. I never had a chance to share that with you, how I looked forward to our trips and I never had a chance to thank you. So once again thank you. It's the little things that people do for others that are important and meaningful to some.

Thanks Sylvia for sharing this information about SFC Calderon. I know it has helped me to better understand the tremendousous loss that all American's felt on that fateful day. You can follow the links below to view 2 of the many 9/11 tributes. These particular websites have guest books and I've linked to the entries for SFC Calderon.

Please take some time out of your day to remember the 2996 innocent lives that were lost on this day 5 years ago.


Anonymous said...

That's definitely a good reminder of what you guys are fighting for and why none of us will ever forget that day.

flaggazer said...

What a beautiful tribute!

We lost so many beautiful souls that day. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Please read my tribute to Major Dwayne Williams who was lost at the Pentagon.

JH said...

Nicely done.