Emotional kick off to ‘Field of Heroes’ celebration

The weeklong commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy unfurled yesterday at the CPA Airport Field with no less than the guest speaker of the “We Will Never Forget: Field of Heroes” kickoff becoming emotional as soon as he saw the more than 500 U.S. flags planted on the ground.

Duane Samiano, a war veteran and now assistant federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration, admitted he was moved as he drove through the venue.

“As we drove by the field it brings an emotional feeling to see the flags out there and what they represent,” said Samiano. “What they represent are just the individual lives of many of our family and friends, of those we don’t even know who went overseas and sacrificed not only their lives but some came back with wounds and scars that may never heal.”

Samiano mentioned that not only should the tragic incident be remembered, but also the numerous lives that were lost due to the ripple effect 9/11 had on the world.

“When we think about how many lives were lost in the 9/11 tragedy that happened back in 2001, we had nearly 3,000 people killed, those that were on the ground, those that were in the building, and those that were in the aircraft,” said Samiano. “The [succeeding] conflicts over the last 15 years that we’ve had troops overseas, we look at the lives that were lost; nearly 6,000 servicemen, nearly 7,000 injured, nearly 30,000 wounded or casualties throughout Afghanistan and Iraq, all standing on the tragedy that happened on 9/11.”

Samiano stressed that the “We Will Never Forget: Field of Heroes” event has no relation at all to politics. He said the event is to pay respect and to honor the military servicemen and first responders.

“These is not a political statement; they’re not an ideology. They’re not something we’re trying to politicize or have you think something other than to honor those that have made sacrifices.”

Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), for his part, said the event is a great way for the community to give back to those who are serving and sacrificing their lives in the name of freedom.

“I would say it’s a beautiful day to honor those that have fallen during 9/11 and all our heroes, all men in military, that gave their lives to defend our country and to defend the U.S. in respect to what transpired with 9/11,” he said. “It’s a very emotional day, and I even had goosebumps just coming over to see these flags.”

Igisomar is ecstatic to know that the proceeds of the event would go to the treatment of soldiers and veterans suffering from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Its great for me that the proceeds would be going to veterans and servicemen that are suffering with PTSD, because I have family members that are going through these emotional illnesses or troubles and it’s not that easy,” shared Igisomar. “The stress that the person gets, the stress that the family goes through, any little amount of money that we could actually give to them would really help along the way to show them that we are here still. Just to give them a chance to feel normal, to feel loved. To feel loved goes a long way.”

On-leave press secretary Ivan Blanco also shared his sentiments about the event.

“9/11 went down as an infamous date that affected a lot of lives with the U.S. and her allies, even the smaller countries that came out in support. The event is reminding the community that we still remember all those that perished all through that time and show our appreciation to all those first responders who gave their lives, those who survived but are still suffering from the effects of it, including all our men and women in arms that went off to Iraq and Afghanistan, and those that didn’t make it back.”

Cathy Attao, vice president for Corporate Affairs of Tan Holdings Corp., said she was extremely happy with the turnout for the opening ceremonies, with various representatives of numerous departments of the CNMI government attending.

Some 75 servicemen, first responders, government officials, businessmen, and community members attended the 9/11 kickoff event on Saipan.

“We had a great turnout, a great representation of all the different departments, government departments, and the private sector as well,” said Attao. “We are pretty much excited for this whole week and pretty much just want to give back to the community.“

Attao is inviting the community to join this Sunday’s culminating event at the same venue. “We really just hope the community comes out,” she said.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, “We Will Never Forget: Field of Heroes” commemoration continues with a tribute at 3pm and different departments of the government would be conducting outreach programs as well as community engagements. A freedom walk would start at 5pm, in which attendants are going to walk a lap around the CPA Airport Field.

“We Will Never Forget: Field of Heroes” commemorates the 15th anniversary of 9/11 tragedy and is hosted by Tan Siu Lin Foundation, the charitable arm of Tan Holdings. The more than 500 American flags at the Airport Field were bought and donated by businesses and individuals who want to honor the heroes of 9/11 and succeeding campaigns for freedom. There will also be simultaneous 9/11 commemorations on Tinian and Rota.

This article was originally authored by Erwin Encinares of the Saipan Tribune and published on September 7th, 2016. All rights, recognition and acknowledgment belong to the author and the Saipan Tribune.