“9/11 both magnified and expanded our ideas of service, sacrifice and gratitude.” -Bonnie Wentzel, Marine Corps wife and mom, Assistant Dean, Career-Track Faculty Success at Arizona State University
In the U.S., Patriot Day is a national day of remembrance of the 2,977 victims tragically killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, airliner hijacking attacks.
This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the attacks striking the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and one plane routed toward the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The shocking 9/11 scenes were tragic and many still recall their activities that day.
Nearly two months after 9/11, on Oct. 25, 2001, Congress passed a Patriot Day resolution with its first observance Sept. 11, 2002. On Patriot Day, a moment of silence for those lost is observed at 8:46 a.m. EST, and the U.S. flag is flown at half-staff on government buildings.
Following 9/11, many Americans joined the U.S. military or proudly deployed on major military operations to disrupt further terrorism threats.
Reflections and Remembrance
At TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest), many employees have a personal connection to Patriot Day, particularly the nation’s response. To observe the day and our appreciation of those who served following the 9/11 attacks, we’re sharing reflections of a few TriWest-connected individuals who have personal experiences with the nation’s response.
Caleb Fisher, TriWest Manager, Behavioral Health, is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran who deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I was in boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on September 11th 2001,” Caleb shares.
“I vividly remember September 11th,” Caleb recalls. “In boot camp we didn’t have any access to the outside world so we didn’t know what had happened but we could tell something was wrong,” he explains. “On Sept 11th every Marine from the drill instructors to the Marines at chow seemed to be wound tighter. There was a level of intensity that told us everything was not okay. That night the drill instructors told us that our country had been attacked and we were allowed to see the news footage.”
Caleb’s unique 9/11 perspective completely solidified his purpose throughout the remainder of his military Service.
“I remember feeling in that moment that it was a certainty that I would go to war and that it would be our responsibility to take the fight back to the enemy. I carried that sense of responsibility through my service,” he emphasizes.
Less than two years after his initial boot camp instincts, the Marine Corps 6th Engineer Support Battalion Bulk Fuel Company C, stationed in Phoenix, mobilized for Iraq.
“My military job was as a Logistics Vehicle Systems Operator,” Caleb shares. “Our mission was to supply fuel for coalition forces. We constructed the longest supply line in Marine Corps history, transporting fuel from Kuwait into Iraq. Later I was involved in logistics missions as far north as Baghdad,” he adds.
More than 20 years later Caleb’s post-9/11 Service remains invaluable to him.
“I had the privilege of serving in the Marine Corps until 2009 and was fortunate to serve with amazing men and women in that time and I will always be grateful for the Marines whom I served with,” he says.
On Patriot Day, Caleb has a long-term perspective of the nation’s response to the 9/11 attacks.
“My oldest son is going to college this year and has never experienced an attack on the U.S. like we did on 9/11,” he shares. “Our kids live in a country where they don’t fear terror attacks because for 20 years we took the fight back to the enemy. I will always be proud of my service.”
Bonnie Wentzel, Assistant Dean, Career-Track Faculty Success at Arizona State University (ASU), is the spouse of Mitch Wentzel, TriWest Program Manager, Small & Disadvantaged Businesses. In 2003, Mitch, also a Marine Corps Veteran, deployed with Caleb Fisher for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Bonnie clearly recalls 9/11 and how it prompted deep personal emotion and quickly affected military families.
“When 9/11 happened, our kids were 13, 11 and 8,” Bonnie shares. “Mitch was just getting ready to retire with 20 years in the Marine Corps. Taking our kids to school that morning was one of the hardest things I ever did because everything was so uncertain.” “It was a terrible day. I knew it would change the trajectory of our family, and it did,” she recalls.
When Mitch deployed to Iraq to help deter further terrorism threats, Bonnie understood his service mission but found receiving current information challenging.
“I did not always know exactly what Mitch was doing,” Bonnie shares. “I had some idea, but he could not say much – some letters came through and occasional jumbled email with no punctuation. I later learned that he and his unit were vital in making sure that fuel was flowing for troops to get to Baghdad,” she says.
Two of Bonnie and Mitch’s sons later joined the Marines.
“It was much more difficult to be a Marine mom than a Marine wife,” Bonnie says.
In 2008, Ryan served in Djibouti, Africa, and in 2010 deployed to Afghanistan, suffering an injury while on a security patrol. His younger brother Kyle deployed to multiple nations from 2015-2020, both sons earning the Global War on Terrorism medal.
At one point Mitch served as Ryan’s commanding officer.
“All I’ve had to do over the years was look at Mitch’s face to know they were doing dangerous things,” Bonnie shares. “Ryan was injured in Afghanistan, and of course years of heightened stress and deployments since 9/11 have taken a toll on all of them. But, they all came home and there is not one day that I don’t think of families who lost a child or a spouse.”
Today, Bonnie values the sacrifices and commitment in military life. Mitch did not retire at 20 years of service, but with 30 years.
“As a family we became much more focused on our collective and individual purposes,” Bonnie shares. “My daughter Lindsey is tougher than any Marine I know. She had no control over anything but she took care of whichever family member she could. We all may not be Marines, but we are in our hearts.”
On Patriot Day, Bonnie is deeply respectful of the values the 9/11 tragedy awakened, emphasizing service as a tribute to those lost.
Their two Marine sons are now thriving as teachers, and Mitch continues to serve the military community through TriWest and volunteering. Bonnie returned to college to complete her education and now serves students at ASU.
In her view, the 9/11 attacks, prompted an important national transformation in a shocking, uncertain time.
“9/11 both magnified and expanded our ideas of service, sacrifice and gratitude,” she proudly emphasizes.