Salt Lake City, UT –
807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, Lt. Col. Thomas W. Hrabal, spoke to cadets (grades 7-12K) at the Utah Military Academy, Hill Field Campus, during a 2019 Patriot Day Observance, Riverdale, Utah, September 11, 2019.
"Today marks the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America," said Hrabal, "at the time of the attacks, I was teaching German at a high school in Oregon.”
As a former high School teacher and an ROTC graduate, Hrabal’s background allowed him to quickly connect with more than a hundred cadets who attended the observance ceremony.
At an event where the speaker is expected to move the audience, it was a unique occasion where the audience also moved the former educator.
“I really like that school,” said Hrabal, “I was truly moved by the students and there were a couple of times where I thought my knees might buckle – like the playing of the national anthem or the surprising standing ovation at the end”.
In speaking with Hrabal about the event, he recalled that he had been teaching on 9/11 when the attacks initially occurred. Almost like coming full circle, Hrabal had returned to a school setting to educate students about the significance of Patriot Day.
"Being able to speak to the cadets at the Utah Military Academy today was significant on so many levels, said Hrabal, “Not only because we are remembering all of our nation's Patriots, past and present, but because the Army Reserve played a critical role in crisis response."
Hrabal’s speech referred to Army Reserve service members who gave their last full measure saving the lives of others - five reservists, who belonged to the New York Fire Department, died saving thousands, and after rescuing all but six of his firm’s 2,700 employees, retired Col. Rick Rescorla perished in Tower Two.
Hrabal also explained the first emergency operations center, under the United States Army Reserve Command organization, was operating within 45 minutes after the attack.
As Hrabal was departing the Academy, a group of 7th graders, who were rehearsing their drill and ceremony in the parking lot, requested his assistance.
One of the cadets said, “Sir, will you help us?”
Once again resuming his role as an educator, Hrabal spent the next 20 to 30 minutes mentoring and leading the cadets on preparatory and execution calls.