By AMANDA BEAM
Twelve years ago, a tragedy took place. Towers tumbled. Buildings burned. Airplanes fell from the sky. In all, almost 3,000 people died as a consequence of the 9/11 attacks. Even more than a decade later, memories of that day still haunt many Americans. Whether they witnessed the destruction firsthand, or from the safety of their television sets, some people would, at times, like to forget the terror of that cloudless, sunny morning.
Palmyra resident J.J. Pinter wants people to remember. As the Director of Operations for Team Red, White and Blue [Team RWB], the former Army captain alongside members of this non-profit organization will conduct a moving tribute in remembrance of 9/11. On the anniversary today, volunteers will take turns walking or running an American flag continuously around Louisville’s streets from dusk to dawn.
“September 11th is a sick tragedy that has happened to our country,” Pinter said. “It was just a little more than 10 years ago, and it already feels like it’s fading from the social consciousness in our country a little bit.”
Pinter’s concern may be valid. Seventy-one years ago, another tragedy that defined a generation took place. On Dec. 7, 1941, more than 2,400 Americans died when the Japanese military attacked U.S. military bases in Hawaii. Fewer and fewer people commemorate Pearl Harbor Day anymore, Pinter said. He doesn’t intend for that to happen to 9/11.
Like Pearl Harbor, the Al Qaeda attacks on American soil precipitated the U.S.’s entry into a military conflict, this time though in Afghanistan. In combination with the subsequent war in Iraq, nearly 2.5 million U.S. men and women have deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom since September 2001, according to the Team RWB website.
Recent reductions in armed forces’ personnel in addition to other factors have created an unusual situation for these returning veterans. The fact that both conflicts are two of the longest wars in which our country has been involved in its history also poses some new challenges.
“Between 1.2 and 1.4 million veterans are going to be released from the military over the next four years,” Pinter said. “There’s going to be this wave of combat veterans that show back up in society that we haven’t seen in a long time in our country. [Team RWB] wants to be the place that’s prepared to catch all these people when they come back.”
Founded only three years ago, Team RWB offers unique opportunities to help returning veterans reintegrate into society through physical and social activities. Anyone, regardless of military service, is invited to attend the events.
“There’s a lot of research out there that shows physical fitness is good for both mental and physical healing in addition to overall general healthiness and stress reduction,” Pinter said.
Playing a vital role in the organization’s success is the way it creates an inclusive community. One of the leading indicators of happiness in a person’s life, Pinter said, is the number of positive interactions they have with other individuals or peers. Yet, at the end of their service, 58 percent of veterans do not go back to their hometowns. With 19,000 members and more than 90 chapters worldwide, the organization has created an easily accessible meeting point for returning service men and women to connect with others.
“We try to provide a place that a veteran can go and be a part of a team,” he said. “They can be around supportive people and they can engage in a healthy activity like physical fitness.”
Pinter himself leads Team RWB’s metro Louisville program and advised those interested in finding out more information about the organization to visit its website at teamrwb.org.