ROTC cadets answer early call to honor 9/11 victims

Thirty-eight GCU Army ROTC cadets placed more than 300 flags for the 9/11 memorial on the lawn adjacent to GCU Ballpark.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

The sun was just beginning to rise over Grand Canyon University on Friday after 38 cadets from GCU’s Army ROTC program already planted nearly all of the 300-plus handheld American flags on a field adjacent to GCU Ballpark to honor those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“My parents both served (in the military), and they actually got out of basic training when 9/11 happened,” cadet Taliyah Calloway said. “I take great pride in knowing that my family served this country and dedicated their life to the freedom of everyone else's, and I just decided to follow their tracks in a different way.”

Senior GCU Army ROTC cadet Taliyah Calloway was one of the cadets who helped set up the flags.

Nearly all of the cadets who participated in the ceremony were not born when the attacks occurred but were eager to honor those who lost their lives or were affected in some way by the tragedy.

Louis Odom, a sophomore business management major, learned of the attacks through his parents. His father had friends who resided in New York and had watched the attacks with his mom, who was pregnant with his older sister.

Nearly all the cadets weren't born until after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy happened but were eager to honor those who lost lives or were affected in some way.

“Obviously, my parents were scared to bring a child in this world after that, and it just really affected them and hearing about it from them,” Odom recalled. “My dad, really telling me from the heart about everything, it was scary. And knowing that going into the service later in my future, it’s for good reason, for reasons like this. It is very important to serve if you are able, in my opinion.”

Enrollment in GCU’s Army ROTC program is at 120, and 38 are enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program. GCU ROTC Coordinator Trish Shipley anticipates the program will produce a record-high number of graduates this spring.

John Herold, a GCU alum who lost his brother, Gary, in the South Tower on 9/11, talks with GCU Army ROTC cadets with his wife, Stella.

John Herold, a GCU alum who grew up in New York and lost his brother, Gary, and longtime friend and firefighter Ken Moreno in the World Trade Center Towers, was moved by the large turnout.

“These are all younger people,” said Herold, who graduated last fall with a criminal justice degree and served as a juvenile probation surveillance officer for Maricopa County. “It means so much to me. And when people say they were not alive at the time, I was not alive during World War II.

Senior GCU Army ROTC cadet Alexa Bradley plants some of the flags, which will remain in place until Tuesday.

“That is generational. People that get it, get it. These young men and women get it. We are so proud that they do. Putting on this display means so much to us because this means people say it is never forgotten.”

Herold, accompanied by his wife, Stella, have two daughters attending GCU and have been honored to participate in the event each year.

“There's nothing that would keep me away from helping out and making this happen,” Herold said.

Junior GCU Army ROTC cadet Daniel Hernandez participated in the event.

Furthermore, Herold was impressed with the commitment of the students who committed to placing flags when they could have been sleeping or studying.

“It shows you the character that they have, which is the same character that first responders have,” Herold said. “It is the same character our military had. It was hot in those towers. They were climbing up there.

“It was hot in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they did not say it is too hot today. That is the same spirit, camaraderie and people with whom you are dealing.”

John and Stella are volunteers for the Steven Stiller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that conducts events and raises money to help veterans and first responders.

And this marked the third time Calloway, a senior public health major, participated in the flag event, which she said reinforces the morals and values that convinced her to attend GCU.

“I hate that this (the 9/11 attacks) happened to people, but to people who actually lived it, they value things like this (flag planting) a lot more,” Calloway said.

The GCU Army ROTC remembers the events of Sept. 11, 2001, annually with a flag planting.

The flags will be displayed through Tuesday morning, Shipley said.

GCU Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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