At Fort Carson’s 9/11 Memorial On The Eve Of The 20th Anniversary, A Veteran Stands Frustrated And Reflective

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Rhonda and Barry Swenson pay their respects at the 9/11 memorial outside Fort Carson on September 10, 2021.

Hoisted on white-painted girders above a bed of purple flowers, a mangled and rusted steel beam from the twin towers stands outside the primary visitor’s entrance to Fort Carson Army Base. 

“It is a vivid reminder that there are people in this world who would do us harm,” reads the plaque beneath the beam. Beside it, a row of stone tablets is inscribed with names of Fort Carson soldiers killed fighting the wars prompted by the 9/11 attacks. 

“It's just been a constant, right? You just keep seeing names, names that are people," said Air Force veteran Barry Swenson, as he and his wife Rhonda paid their respects at the memorial on Friday. 

Swenson was still in the service when the attacks happened 20 years ago. Friday, the couple visited their son, a soldier assigned to Fort Carson. As Swenson looked at the names on the tablets, 407 people killed between May 2003 and July 2019, he expressed a profound regret in how the U.S. ended its decades-long engagement in Afghanistan last month.

Dan Boyce/CPR News
A steel beam from the fallen World Trade Center is displayed at the Gate 1 entrance to Fort Carson.

“I look at this as a waste,” Swenson said. “We had a job to do. The ‘War on Terror’ was supposed to be fought on their soil, not our soil. And, I’m afraid it’s going to come back to our soil because of the decisions that were made and how they were made.”

The U.S. military’s exit from Afghanistan was widely panned as chaotic, as the Biden Administration rushed to airlift more than 100,000 people out of the country in August. On top of U.S. citizens and American allies, the evacuation included thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S.-led coalition during the war. However, many were left behind.

The 9/11 memorial at Fort Carson is accessible to the public outside the base’s Gate 1. Peterson Space Force Base will host a remembrance on the anniversary on Saturday for all area military service members, which is not open to the public.

Retired Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Ed Eberhart will be the keynote speaker. Eberhart was the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs during the 9/11 attacks.