Photo Information

Buildings stand at the position of attention as Col. Mark J. Desens, Special Marine Air Ground Task Force 26 commanding officer, gives the oath of enlistment to Marines at ground zero in New York City, Nov. 4, 2009. The Marines are in New York City for the commissioning of USS New York, which contains 7 1/2 tons of steel from the World Trade Center.

Photo by Sergeant Danielle M. Bacon

Marines promoted, re-enlist at ground zero

8 Nov 2009 | Sgt Danielle Bacon

Overlooking the site where eight years ago nearly 3,000 innocent people were murdered in the terror attacks of 9/11, three Marines were promoted and four dedicated another four years of their lives to serve and protect the nation Wednesday.

Promotions are typically considered an exciting time in a Marine’s career and having chevrons pinned on with the sound of construction in the background at this sacred site took it to a whole new level.   

For one meritoriously promoted sergeant it was an opportunity to pay respect to those lost.

“We came to the World Trade Center to take a moment to reflect on the events that took place and why we are here today,” said Sgt. Alex L. Diaz, who won a recent 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit meritorious sergeant board.  “I felt like every American when we saw what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s something we all have inside of us. Just to be here is an amazing experience that I will never forget. It is honoring all the lives lost. It’s something I can do to give back to back to my country.”

Two Marines were promoted to lance corporal – Roland Richardson, an administrative clerk, and Frank Pagan, a tank crewman.

Family members in attendance were especially moved.

“I am the happiest mom ever. He’s made everybody happy in the family. We are so proud of him,” said Mildred Martinez, Pagan’s mother. “It’s an honor to come to this spot. He’s done such a great job and has come such a long way. He’s the most respectful son. I am very proud of him.”

When Marines enlist in the Corps, they typically sign a four year contract. At the end of that time period, they either choose to get out of the service or stay in. If they choose to stay in, they typically sign for four more years. Four Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 26 chose to serve another four years and re-enlisted at the site Wednesday.

SPMAGTF-26 radio chief, Gunnery Sgt. Lorenzo Merced, enlisted for the fourth time, while Sgt. Matthew Schivers enlisted for his third, and Cpl. Bobby Hoover and Cpl. Kenneth Vandame both enlisted for the second time.

“It’s a privilege to do it here. It was a gift, because it holds such meaning to me. I personally had two really close friends and a family member lost here. I can’t express in words,” said Vandame, a Rochester, N.Y. native.  “It provided a lot of insight into how I feel (about) everything that has happened in the past at this site. This really does hold such a great meaning to me. I am proud to give another four years of my life.”

The Marines are in New York with USS New York for its commissioning. The ship was built with 7 ½ tons of steel from the World Trade Center forged into its bow.

“We are here to honor the victims of 9/11 and to show what we are doing post to represent America and rebuild,” said Diaz. “It’s especially significant for the state, the city and the nation. It kind of represents the progress we’ve made, that we are still here, and we’re not going to stop fighting.”