On Friday May 18th, in a ceremony at the 9/11 Tribute Center, New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Lee Ielpi, Board President of the Tribute Center who lost his son Jonathan Ielpi on 9/11, honored the New York National Guard for their service after 9/11. Major General Steven N. Wickstrom, Commander of the NY National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division, accepted a plaque from the Tribute Center in recognition for their dedication.
Lieutenant Governor Duffy said, “The New York National Guard has served our state and nation honorably and selflessly throughout its history. The Guard’s response to 9/11 demonstrated the dedication, strength and courage of the men and women who serve our state; service that was continued in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. National Guard troops also bravely performed water rescues and large scale evacuations of residents during last year’s floods, helping residents across New York rebuild their towns, villages and lives. The people of New York State will forever be grateful and honored by their service.”
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 triggered an unprecedented mobilization of the National Guard forces that continues to this date. Never in our nation’s history has a National Guard force done as much for so long for homeland and national defense. Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center, 1,500 NY National Guard troops reported for duty. Within 24 hours, over 8,000 NY National Guard soldiers, airmen and women were on active duty supporting New York’s security. Troops secured the area, rushed in supplies and assisted with rescue and recovery. The 9/11 Tribute Center gives heartfelt thanks to the NY National Guard for their service. Lee Ielpi said, “In honor of Armed Forces Day we are delighted to recognize the National Guard for their continuous service and immediate response after 9/11 to protect and serve New York State.”
Major General Wickstrom leads a force of more than 3,500 NY National Guard soldiers and oversees a wider division force that includes more than 14,000 troops assigned to combat brigades in New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. “Since 2006, when I returned from Iraq and was first assigned to the 42nd Division, one of the things I have most enjoyed is asking Guardsmen to tell me the story of their service after we were attacked on 9/11 – where they served, what their duties were, what sticks out in their memory. There is a familiar theme to the story. Most threw their gear in a duffle bag, said a hurried goodbye to their families and reported to their armories. Many reported with no formal orders to do so, and none knew how long it would last.
Over the days that followed these Guardsmen in New York and across America helped return a sense of security to airports and train stations and a sense of calm to America’s streets. It was the beginning of an extraordinary change in the National Guard. Although Guardsmen were poorly equipped and had been under-resourced for years, they possessed two things that remained undiminished. The first was their love for their country. The second was a dedication to serve her.”
Following the presentation, National Guard soldiers and their families toured the 9/11 Tribute Center and visited the 9/11 Memorial.