Janesville Craig grad takes part in 9/11 ceremony
Rodney Dickens, 11, was a sixth-grader from the Washington area flying on a school trip to California the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when his plane crashed into the Pentagon.
Rodney’s biography personalized the ceremony for Fischer, a 2010 Craig High School graduate and a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard/Drill Team based in Alexandria, Va.
Fischer, 19, was about the same age as Rodney on 9/11.
“He had no idea. He knew he was going to California that day,” Fischer said.
The Pentagon memorial includes a bench for each of the 184 victims killed there. Fischer and 183 other military members placed a wreath on each bench.
The service members marched out to music, approached their benches and stood at attention for speeches by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden told the crowd the 2.8 million military members who have joined since 2001 are part of the “9/11 generation.”
“He said that we were born on 9/11, and I will never forget that,” Fischer said. “I was definitely born on 9/11 … it definitely has left a mark on me, and I will never forget that.”
His proud parents, David and Pam, watched him on TV from their Janesville home.
Fischer and his comrades were chosen because they could stand still the best, he said.
Guard members practice “stands” at attention with no emotion for six 30-minute sessions and up to one 90-minute stand, he said. The longest he’s ever had to stand was two hours.
It got extremely painful, he said of Sunday’s ceremony, after 45 minutes holding his arms up with the wreath.
Then add all the cameras that such a historic event brings.
“It’s definitely more of a mental thing than a physical thing,” he said.
Fischer’s tasks, which take him around the country, include 21-gun salutes at funerals, marching platoons, parades and retirement ceremonies. This summer, he participated in Gen. David Petraeus’ retirement ceremony.
Some of his “stands” are more difficult, such as funerals when he’s close enough to hear family members crying. He must keep a straight face.
“We’re statues,” he said.
Fischer will serve with the honor guard until the presidential inauguration in January 2013. Then he plans to receive training to join a material team and weld on ships.
“I can’t even describe how big of an honor it’s been being able to represent 40,000 people who work so hard everyday,” he said.