The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa held their annual 9/11 memorial ceremony to commemorate the lives lost during the tragedy and highlight the importance of keeping the memory of 9/11 alive on Sept. 11, 2023, at Camp Lemonnier.
More than 100 service members from across Camp Lemonnier stood in formation to pay tribute. Distinguished guests including Djibouti Mayor Said D. Mohomed and Mario Fernandez, U.S. Chargé D’Affaires to Djibouti, were also in attendance.
“We must never forget the legacy of that September day,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jami Shawley, CJTF-HOA commanding general. “And let us hope that the legacy of that day is of a world drawn together in a common cause for freedom and for peace.”
CJTF-HOA service members who lived in New York during the attacks were invited to speak about their experience of the attacks and the impact it made on their lives.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Trejo, CJTF-HOA communications senior enlisted leader, was a student in middle school when the Twin Towers fell. On that day he was inspired to join the military and his calling led him to eventually enlist in the New York National Guard in 2007.
Since then, he’s supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and now CJTF-HOA, which was established in October 2002 to counter transnational terrorist threats in the Horn of Africa.
“This task force was a direct result of the September 11th attacks and I’m proud to be serving here as not only a soldier, but as a New Yorker,” said Trejo.
In August 2001, a month before the attacks, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Blake, CJTF-HOA director of human intelligence and counterintelligence, got a job as a law enforcement officer in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York City. When he first heard about the attacks, Blake was a firearms instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia over 800 miles away from his hometown.
“I'll never forget. I was out on the range when I got my first alert text. My initial thought was it was probably just some young pilot who accidentally clipped the tower trying to show off. After a couple of minutes my alert beeper went off again. That’s when I realized our country was under attack,” said Blake. His initial reaction, like millions from around the nation and the world, was one of shock. Upon arriving home Blake, a fifth-generation New Yorker, saw law enforcement, civilians, and service members come together like he’d never experienced before.
“Every person working out there remembers the sights, the smells, the sounds. But we also remember the resilience of our New Yorkers, of our American citizens, and of our partners and allies from around the world,” said Blake.
Twenty years removed from the attacks this unity is still present. Blake made it his personal goal to do his part in never allowing the memory of 9/11 to die out, this goal has led him to CJTF-HOA.
“Here today, we have Americans from all parts of our beloved country, we have our partners and allies from many parts of the world, and no doubt we have folks standing among us that were not even born when 9/11 happened,” said Blake. “Together we stand here in solidarity, all doing our small part in never forgetting.”