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NEWPORT, R.I. (Sept. 11, 2013) A ceremonial wreath sits at Patriots Memorial at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, R.I., prior to a remembrance to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The ceremony, which served as an opportunity to honor the 11 fallen NWC students and alumni killed on Sept. 11, 2001, consisted of a wreath laying, music by Navy Band Northeast and remarks from Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr., president, NWC, and guest speakers; Army Lt. Col. William Bestermann and Marine Lt. Col. Don Thieme. The following NWC students and alumni perished during the 9/11 attacks: Capt. Gerald F. DeConto; Lt. Cmdr. Robert R. Elseth; Capt. Lawrence D. Getzfred; Ms. Angela Houtz; Cmdr. Patrick J. Murphy; Lt. Jonas Panik; retired Capt. Jack D. Punches, Jr.; Cmdr. Robert A. Schlegel; Cmdr. Dan F. Shanower; U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kip Taylor; and retired Capt. John D. Yamnicky Sr. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl/Released)

By Daniel S. Marciniak, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
Sept. 11, 2013

NEWPORT, R.I. – Eleven students and alumni of the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon were honored Wednesday, in a remembrance ceremony held at Patriots Memorial, Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport.

Commemorating the 12th anniversary since the terrorist attacks, the ceremony paid special tribute to the three students and eight alumni killed in the line of duty that day.

“Their names are inscribed here on this bronze plaque,” said professor John Jackson, the master of ceremony for the commemoration. “And their memories, along with the others who were killed that day, are enshrined in the hearts of all Americans.”

Dedicated in September 2002, the memorial is comprised of a broken fragment of limestone from the west facade of the Pentagon. Though damaged, the stone stands upright, signifying both the restored Pentagon building and the continued strength of the U.S. armed forces.

“9:34 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, is a time all Americans will long remember,” said NWC President Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr. “All freedom loving people remember what they were doing when the planes crashed in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the tragic field in Pennsylvania. These images are truly forever etched into our memories.”

One who remembers that horrible day was guest speaker, Army Lt. Col. William Bestermann.

“The fumes coming out of the building were intense, smelling of burned jet fuel and a smell I had never smelled before and never since,” said Bestermann, describing that day to members of the NWC and NAVSTA Newport community.

Bestermann was a company commander with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the time of the attacks, and participated in the search and rescue efforts and removal of remains and debris at the Pentagon blast site in the months thereafter.

“Our efforts pale in comparison to what some have done to protect our country and our interests over the last 12 years,” said Bestermann. “It is important that we remember this day and that we honor those who [have] sacrificed.”

On hand to do just that was Marine Lt. Col. Donald Thieme, a professor of joint military operations here at the college.

“To many people, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, can seem remote, distant, almost surreal,” said Thieme. “But behind every name etched on a memorial is a set of human stories.”

For Thieme, it is a story of a neighbor and close personal friend, NWC alumnus Capt. Gerald F. DeConto, who was reported to have survived the initial blast in the Pentagon, but died going back into the building to continue helping shipmates.

“Since that day, many thousands of Sailors, Marines, soldiers, airmen and allies have died, or been horribly wounded,” said Thieme. “Not just defending our way of life, but positively putting forth the ideal that everyone deserves to breathe free and live free from terror and tyranny.

“We who continue to stand the watch owe Gerry’s memory and the memory of all those who have served, and all too often suffered and died, our absolute best. To do anything less is to sell our shipmates, our comrades and our fellow citizens short.”

The names of the three Washington, D.C.-based students who were actively enrolled in NWC programs at the time of the attack were: Angela Houtz, of LaPlata, Md.; Lt. Jonas Panik, of Mingoville, Pa.; and Cmdr. Dan Shanower, of Naperville, Ill.

The eight alumni were: DeConto, of Sandwich, Mass.; Lt. Cmdr. Robert R. Elseth, of Vestal, N.Y.; Capt. Lawrence D. Getzfred, of Elgin, Neb.; Cmdr. Patrick J. Murphy, of Flossmoor, Ill.; retired Capt. Jack Punches, of Clifton, Va.; retired Capt. John Yamnicky Sr., of Waldorf, Md.; Cmdr. Robert A. Schlegel, of Gray, Maine; and Army Lt. Col. Kip Taylor, of McLean, Va.

Newport-area chief petty officer selectees stated each victim's name while ringing a bell in his or her memory. They also formed an honor guard for a wreath-laying at the Patriots Memorial, accompanied by taps played by Navy Band Northeast.

Edited by Cmdr. Carla M. McCarthy