NEW YORK -- The Marine Corps’ only living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War led Marines based in the Greater New York City area on a run from Brooklyn to where the World Trade Center towers once stood during the annual Tunnel to Towers run here Sept. 29.
Sgt. Dakota Meyer ran alongside Col. J. J. Dill, the 1st Marine Corps District commanding officer, and Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as they led approximately 350 Marines from 1MCD, Marine Aircraft Group 49, 6th Communications Battalion, 6th Motor Transport Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation run commemorates the heroic life and death of Stephen Siller, a firefighter who ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with 60 lbs. of gear to help those in need at the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. He and 342 firefighters and paramedics were killed that day.
“The acts that Stephen Siller performed that day are the same acts that we expect of our Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen. That’s tenacity, bravery, courage, and that’s what Stephen Siller portrayed that day, and each and every day, as he protected the citizens of New York as a firefighter, “ said Battaglia.
Servicemembers from all branches of service joined runners and walkers to retrace Siller’s steps and remember the victims of 9/11.
“It’s important to do memorial runs because so many men and women have sacrificed for freedom and sacrificed so we can do what we do and live in the greatest country on earth. We need to remember that,” reflected Meyer.
Four years ago, Meyer was serving in Afghanistan on the anniversary of 9/11. Three days prior, his actions and bravery in battle resulted in the awarding of the Medal of Honor.
“I lost my whole team on September 8, 2009, three days before September 11. It was by far the worst week of my life.”
He also recalled where he was the day so many lives were changed.
“Sept. 11, 2001 I was sitting in my 8th grade classroom, in an art class … and we heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center … remember them rolling in a TV and watching the towers fall, and I didn’t know what it [meant]. It means so much more now.”
After running the 3.5 mile route, Meyer reflected, “I think everyday should be memorial day, but we need to set aside days where it is just about them, it’s just about what they did for us … it’s a humbling experience, just like this one.”
Battalgia reiterated the feelings of many when he said, “I feel honored to come out here and participate and I’m glad to see all of our service branches, especially our Corps, coming out and representing Stephen Siller and helping to carry on his legacy.”