The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced Thursday that it would host a reading this Veterans Day on the National Mall of all 7,059 names of service members who sacrificed their lives in the post-9/11 wars.
The reading will take place at the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital. In addition, volunteers will carry banners with each fallen service members’ picture.
“We at the Tunnel to Towers Foundation believe it is our responsibility and our honor to make sure that their sacrifice and the sacrifice made by so many other families are never forgotten,” said the foundation’s CEO Frank Siller.
“We’ll be reading those 7,059 names here on Veterans Day for the first time ever at the Lincoln Memorial,” he said. “We do it because as a nation, we must acknowledge these great American heroes, because it is right, it is just, and it is about time that we did it.”
Siller started the foundation after losing his youngest brother, New York firefighter Stephen Siller, on 9/11. He said his brother strapped 60 pounds of fire gear on his back and ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers.
“He wanted to help people, he wanted to serve, he wanted to save,” he said. “Many of our men and women who saw that signed up to serve America, to protect America to make sure it didn’t happen again, on our homeland. … Some of those men and women paid a big price.”
Four Gold Star wives expressed their gratitude for the foundation and their plans to read the fallen’s names aloud, including their husbands.
“Saying my husband’s name and hearing it echo throughout the capitol’s national mall gives me and my family such a sense of pride and honor,” said Carmela Raguso, whose husband Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso was killed on March 15, 2018, in a helicopter crash over the Iraq-Syrian border.
“On Veterans Day as the names are read of the service men and women who have died so that others may live, remember that there are people all over the country who are listening to those names that may be the spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, child or friend of one of those individuals,” she said. “Say their names so others won’t forget and then they will truly never be gone.”
Rebecca Briggs, wife of Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs, who was also killed in the helicopter crash, said, “The reading of the names means so much to my family and I because it is another way to keep my husband’s memory alive.”
Shannon Slutman, who lost her husband U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device on April 8, 2019, said, “American people, we need you to remember every single day, because for a Gold Star wife, a Gold Star spouse, everyday is Memorial Day.”
Nancy Gass, whose husband Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Girard “Jerry” Gass Jr. died August 3, 2014, in Afghanistan after evacuating a wounded soldier off the battlefield in Afghanistan, said, “Remembering these great heroes is our responsibility as Americans.”
Two retired Marines, Sgt. Rob Jones (Ret.) and Cpl. (Ret.) Larry Bailey, also expressed their gratitude to the foundation.
Jones said, “I believe that all Americans should strive everyday to live a life that is worthy of that sacrifice. The first step is remembering them, which is why I’m extremely thankful that the Tunnel to Towers Foundation is taking it upon themselves to make sure that we never forget.”
Three members of Congress who either served or are currently serving in the U.S. Army — Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Brian Mast (R-FL), and Mike Waltz (R-FL) — also recognized the foundation and Gold Star families for their sacrifice.
“A new legacy begins today, thanks to the vision of Frank Siller and a great organization and an amazing team. … It’s an honor to be here with my colleagues and all of you,” said Zeldin, who is an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.
Mast said, “War can be distant … but for those families that lost somebody, those families that tsaw someone go overseas, it’s anything but distant, and the way that the sacrifice of those who went is made whole is to never forget what that sacrifice was for.”
Mast, a double amputee who served as an explosive ordnance disposal technician with Joint Special Operations Command, added:
That’s what remembering is all about. That’s why what Tunnel to Towers is bringing to fruition in November is so important, because as long as we don’t forget, as long as we learn from their sacrifice, from what they did and why they did it, and why they went, then they’ll continue to live on forever, and that’s what makes their sacrifice worth it.
Waltz, the first Green Beret to serve in Congress and a National Guard lieutenant colonel, thanked Tunnel to Towers for its work for Gold Star families.
“I can’t tell you how many nights out on that black helicopter, out on missions, when we’re going to take down al Qaeda, we’re going to take down America’s enemies, what a reassurance it was to me, to my operators, to know that my wife, my daughter, my family, would be taken care of if the worst happened.”
He added to Gold Star families, “I promise you that as long as we are here…you are not forgotten, you are absolutely not forgotten, and we will continue to fight for what you sacrifice for day in and day out in this great city.”
Siller said volunteers can register to read names at www.t2t.org.