Sailors’ Stories of 9/11 Service: Honor, Courage, Commitment

Sailors who serve aboard three Navy ships have a connection to 9/11. USS New York (LPD 21)USS Arlington (LPD 24) and the future USS Somerset (LPD 25) are named in memory of the attacks. Navy Live asked a Sailor from each of the ships to share what it means to serve aboard one of the “9/11 ships.”  

USS New York crest

By Chief (Select) Electrician’s Mate Martha Cordero

Chief (Select) Electricians Mate Martha CorderoWe all have a sense of pride. Where we come from is, in part, what shapes us into who we are today. Being born and raised on the streets of Queens, New York gave me the strength, not only to survive, but also to overcome anything that may come my way.

On that tragic day in September, like most Americans do, I remember vividly where I was and what I was doing. I joined the Navy in January of that year and was deployed overseas. I was a fireman on a working party, receiving food and fuel aboard USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), when suddenly I was asked by my peers, “aren’t you from New York?” I said “yes, why?”  They pointed to the television and it was then that I saw my towers on fire. I froze, uncertain about my family and their whereabouts. I had never felt so terrified. I quickly called my parents, and to my prayers, my mom answered the phone. It was a relief to know everyone was okay and on the way home from work to stay safe in the house.

Eleven years later, I was up for orders once again. It was my ultimate goal to be stationed onboard this fine warship, USS New York (LPD 21). She is a floating memorial for the families who lost loved ones during that heartbreaking day in 2001. The 7.5 tons of steel from the towers that crumbled are forged in her bow and act as a constant reminder to us all. The passageways of New York are lined with countless tributes to those we lost on 9/11: their names can be found on our damage control stations, repair lockers, medical treatment rooms and throughout the rest of the ship. Our motto, “Never Forget” reminds us of our countrymen who died that day, and every day since, serving freedom’s cause. It also is a call to stand together with our Marine Corps brothers in arms to prevent such tragedy from ever happening again.

Last year, as she sailed overseas during her maiden deployment, New York’s presence was felt by those who thought they had once crumbled our faith in freedom. As long as we serve together on this mighty warship, we will never forget!


 USS Arlington crest

By Seaman Recruit Edward Florentino

Seaman Recruit Edward FlorentinoOn Sept. 11, 2001, my uncle, Charles E. Sabin, was among the 184 innocent people killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Today, I am proudly serving aboard USS Arlington (LPD 24), one of the three amphibious transport dock ships named in remembrance of those tragic events more than a decade ago.

I was 11 years old in 2001. I didn’t know Uncle Chuck very well. I had met him a few times at family gatherings. I remember him as a warm, caring and kind man. The impact of his death on my family was very sudden and dramatic. Everybody was in disbelief.

Uncle Chuck joined the Defense Intelligence Agency in August 1981 as an accountant, and went on to become the DIA’s senior financial resources expert. He received the Director’s Award for Meritorious Service in 1984 and the Director’s Award for Exceptional Service in 1991.

Although I am from an Army family, I chose to join the Navy, and went to boot camp in July 2012. When I reported aboard Arlington the following October as a deck seaman, I didn’t know that any Navy ships were named in honor of 9/11. I didn’t know that my new ship honored Arlington County, Va., and the Pentagon’s heroes and victims – including Uncle Chuck.

Of course when I found out, I felt incredibly honored and told my family immediately. Several of them were thrilled to be able to attend our commissioning ceremony, which held at Naval Station Norfolk on April 6, 2013.

I am very lucky –not just to be a crewmember of this ship – but a plank owner as well. Of all the ships and commands the Navy, I got assigned to this one in particular.

I am in the right place at the right time. I joined the Navy, and this is where life has led me.


 

USS Somerset crest

By Quartermaster Second Class Matthew Konchan

Quartermaster Second Class Matthew Konchan I was born in Washington, D.C.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was sitting in a classroom at a downtown Johnstown, Pa., community college, approximately 25 miles away from the Flight 93 crash site.

Because of these events that took place so close to home, it made my decision to join the Navy that much easier, ultimately giving me the opportunity to defend my nation like the 40 passengers and crew members aboard Flight 93 did that day.

Before I knew I would serve on a ship named after Somerset County, I went to visit the very hallow site not realizing that the crane sitting up on the hill would be melted down and made part of the ship that I will take honor in being a plank owner.

Now that I am serving onboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Somerset, I take in the opportunity of being part of a ship with the history being so close to home. Flight 93’s passengers and crew sacrificed their lives, leaving behind heroic legacies; my shipmates will preserve their legacies serving on board Somerset.

It is fitting that Somerset is a dock ship, which brings Marines and the fight to other countries, protecting Americans at home. Protecting Americans and their country is what Flight 93 passengers and crewmembers did on September 11th.

Being a Sailor means standing watch even in the middle of the night when you would rather be sleeping. It means preparing for deployments and always being ready to do what is asked of you on a moment’s notice. It means sacrificing birthdays, holidays and special moments. For my country, I will do all of this with no hesitation day after day because I asked what I can do for my country, not what my country can do for me.

What do you remember from 9/11? Share your story below.