BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Thursday morning on Keesler Air Force Base, the men and women who serve their country took time to reflect back on one of the darkest days in the country's history: September 11, 2001. Almost 3,000 people lost their lives in the terrorist attack on America 13 years ago.
There was prayer, then the tolling of a single bell, followed by a song to help uplift the spirits on this somber day.
Military dedication and precision was on full display, as was the American flag being raised, and then lowered to half staff. A wreath was laid, honoring those who died.
The men and women of Keesler will never forget that freedom isn't free.
"It's a privilege to do what we do. And I was fortunate enough to be one of the ones that have the opportunity to do what I do and protect this great country," Staff Sgt. Joseph Boyou said.
"It's great being here and being able to kind of reflect on some of the things that really brought us together as a country," Lt. Amber Hoak explained.
A promise was made to those who might attack America with terror once again. That promise came from base commander Brigadier General Patrick Higby.
"As soon as you resort to violence and resort to terrorism and kill innocents, the United States military will rise up and come after you," Higby said.
While many of the military men and women who attended the service remember 9/11 clearly, several others didn't. In fact, one was six years old when it happened. But that still hasn't diminished the meaning of the day for Airman 1st Class Stephanie Kramer.
"What it means to me is 13 years later, from the attack, is just to remember how we came together as a country. And to be serving my military now, I never thought I'd be in this position to know that I'm involved in protecting it," Kramer explained.
Some, like Tech Sgt. Brian Margavich, also know things will never be quite the same.
"When I drove up this morning and saw the barriers out here again it was kind of a remembrance back to that day and the weeks and months that followed, and the long hours we worked, and how everything ramped up. How things we knew were normal were no longer normal," Margavich recalled.
Maybe not normal, but certainly much stronger.
Keesler has held a 9/11 service every year since that attack on America 13 years ago.