U.S. Naval War College Honors Students and Alumni Killed in Sept. 11 Attack

Participants from the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) pay respect

Newport, R.I. - The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) honored 11 students and alumni killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack 20 years later at a ceremony at the college’s 9/11 Patriot Memorial. The September 11 attack occurred when two hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center towers, another crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a Pennsylvania field.

“September 11, 2001, that is the day that we remember, and we honor those lost. We stand resolutely today with their families and their loved ones,” said Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, president, U.S. Naval War College. “This 20th anniversary is also a milestone that serves to educate and acknowledge the efforts of our military and remind the public that we have not forgotten our fallen.”

“And so, we will never forget September 11, 2001; we will never forget the debt carried by our fellow war college comrades who all gave their lives for our freedom,” said Chatfield later in the program. “Our compassion for their families will never fade, and we must continue to honor the memory of our lost ones with ceremonies like these. Our courage to carry on will never waiver.”

The keynote speaker was retired U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Turner.

“Please know, you are not alone. Certainly, my words or the memorials across the country cannot fill that void,” said Turner. “What I hope for you today is to reclaim some purpose from what was and always will be a senseless act of violence and to remind us of the triumph born from such devastating tragedy.”

Chatfield and Turner placed a commemorative wreath in honor of the fallen. 

Family members of the late Navy Captain Gerald F. DeConto attended the ceremony.

DeConto was a 1998 graduate of the U.S. Naval War College who was working in the Pentagon’s Navy Command Center when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.

DeConto was killed along with 124 others inside the Pentagon, including nine other service members or civilians who were either alumni or active Naval War College students in the Fleet Seminar Program. Retired Navy Capt. John Yamnicky, 71, was a passenger aboard Flight 77 who died in the crash and a Naval War College graduate.

David J. DeConto, the brother of DeConto discussed the memorial that his family created in honor of his brother in an interview. 

“You should know that in Sandwich, our hometown, we built a stadium for the high school with his name on it, and it's dedicated to Gerry and other veterans; our mantra is Veterans Past, Present and Future. We get to teach the kids about 9/11 and about who these people were and that is how we keep the memory alive," said DeConto. “It's always about are people going to forget, are they going to forget Gerry, are they going to forget 9/11, is it going to fade into history? That is our biggest fear. That is how we decided to do it,” said David J. DeConto.

The stadium was named Captain Gerald F. DeConto Veterans Memorial Stadium at Sandwich High School in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

In addition to DeConto and Yamnicky, those commemorated were Navy Lt. Cmdr. Robert R. Elseth, 37; Navy Capt. Lawrence D. Getzfred, 57; Navy civilian Angela Marie Houtz, 27; Navy Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Jude Murphy, 38; Navy Lt. Jonas Martin Panik, 26; Jack D. Punches, 50, a retired Navy captain working at the Pentagon as a civilian; Navy Cmdr. Robert A. Schlegel, 38; Navy Cmdr. Dan F. Shanower, 40; and Army Lt. Col. Kip P. Taylor, 38.

NWC professor and retired Navy Capt. John Jackson read out every name and the history of each fallen individual. A bell clanged after each person was recognized.

"The Naval War College has paused annually to recognize the sacrifice of our students and alumni for 20 years. In 2002, as part of the dedication of the Patriots Memorial, the college posthumously awarded honorary Master of Arts degrees to each of our fallen colleagues,” said Jackson.

To watch the ceremony, please visit our NWC YouTube channel here: 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.

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Michael Guterl, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
October 07, 2021

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Sep. 30, 2021
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