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Patriotic Article
War and Tragedy
By Vincent Forras

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My 9/11 Experience and Four Years Since
(September 8, 2005)

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I have been thinking for sometime about the right words to honor this fourth year after life changed for all of us. I have been pondering this thinking of so many things, just how far off that event was and at the same time, how close it remains. For many of us it lives with us every moment of every day and the images that we now see, most recently in New Orleans and surrounds, intensify these thoughts.

I keep thinking of first the horror, then a transformation of souls to work as a team, all for one and one for all, and then find myself missing that feeling of brotherhood. Its hard to explain but that experience, although brought about by the hardest of times, actually fostered a feeling within me and countless others of worth and being appreciated. I can speak of my experience, being called to Ground Zero, knowing that I would more than likely; never again see many of my brothers and friends, not knowing if I would ever return to my children.

I recall, vividly, working around the clock to save them, then to bring them home. The transition of when that happened was a fluid one and I don't recall exactly when that happened, but it did. Everything about my life changed at Ground Zero during that service to my fellow man.

Looking back and knowing now what we were exposed to . . . the chemicals, the particulates, and the mental anguish . . . I must say, I would do it again in an instant for this country, which I love above all else. I thought myself to be a patriot my entire life, always respecting our flag, our leaders, and our country's sacred principles.

However, something happened to me after we were so brutally and carelessly attacked. It wasn't just our city, New York, or a symbol of that city that was struck . . . It was America, it was our way of life, and everything we believe in was attacked that day. And, you know what, we weathered the storm and out of that a deeper feeling of patriotism and love of this country has consumed me.

Standing at Ground Zero a month after the attacks with my son, dressed in our finest class A uniform, after marching down Fifth Avenue on Columbus day . . . something happened between a father and a son. Something you know being a father of a Marine happens. My son Michael, after seeing, smelling and feeling Ground Zero decided to join this elite team that defends our freedom around the globe. At that moment my boy became a man.

Knowing that so many of our young men have been inspired to do the same is a tribute to America . . . is a tribute to our Commander in Chief, who I proudly support with all of my heart. His character, his dedication, and his commitment to our freedom and safety are evident . . . even to those who don't want to accept it or admit it.

I just returned from a very special visit to my son's Marine base, Miramar . . . and had the honor of meeting with some our finest young men, some of which have already served in Afghanistan and Iraq and others who are ready to go. The pride... I see in their eyes and feel from their hearts. And I appreciate them and their dedication beyond words. They represent the finest of what this country has to offer. They have VOLUNTEERED, just as I did at Ground Zero, just as so many Americans do every day, because we are Americans and we LOVE OUR COUNTRY.

As one who served on 911 and beyond, I have my doubts about the sincerity of many who say that they support the troops, but not the war. I just cannot see one without the other . . . and believe it is politically based with looking towards the 2006 and 2008 elections. And sadly, the media seems to do the same in much of its coverage. (I won't even get into the mixed message that I believe it gives to troops in harm's way and the overwhelming majority of their families.)

Moreover, my opinions come from what I believe is a very unique prospective on the war on terror and the sacrifice that it will take to insure the freedom of our children and grandchildren. Do I speak from hate or vengeance? NO!

Consider this... Gear Up Foundation has a very special mission and it is one of love. We have dedicated ourselves to be a Living Memorial to all those who perished on 911 by doing great deeds in their name around the globe. We act as ambassadors of this country helping those firefighters and children in need in third world and developing countries. We show how good we are as a people and we do it out of love and caring.

However, there are times and circumstances when a great nation must be empowered and have great resolve to do the right thing, because it can and must do so. Our great nation is the only nation around the world that does what it does, spilling our blood to protect not only ourselves but to liberate others.

I hope all Americans will continue to remember September 11, 2001 and the great "patriotic spirit" that rose out from its ashes . . . And I encourage all to support our great country anyway you can.

May God continue to bless our men and women in uniform both around the world and here in this blessed land.  May God continue to bless our President in his sacred mission and give him the wisdom and perseverance to carry on . . . and May God Always Bless America!

Vincent Forras
Disabled Ground Zero Firefighter
Copyright 2005

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