Someday, long into the future, perspective will dictate the list of the heroes who responded during and after the radical Islamic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 against New York, The Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.
However, it is not too early to honor the amazing and continuing work of those who are still fighting the battles directly related to the events of September 11, 2001. Among those heroes is a group of men and women who work for the Office of the Chief Prosecutor in the Office of Military Commissions.
The Office of Military Commissions was set up to facilitate the judicial system for the living perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, U.S.S. Cole Bombing, and other terrorist attacks against the United States. An entity of the Department of Defense, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor is composed of military and civilian personnel.
Their mission is not a job but a calling. The prosecution team, by nature of their duties, spend more waking hours with each other than with their families. These folks spend weeks or even months away from their families at a time going to New York City and, especially, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba among other locations. Their hours are spent researching documents, taking statements and answering countless internal and external inquiries. Additionally the prosecution, with its special bond with the families of those who were murdered, brings family members of the victims to Guantanamo Bay to witness justice firsthand while also setting up satellite locations for said family members to watch the proceedings in the United States. It also maintains email contact with the families, updating them on the progress of the cases.
Unfortunately, the defense team has played a waiting game and attempts to run the clock out for a variety of reasons.
Other than the obvious of trying to avoid the death penalty, perhaps foremost among these reasons is that the September 11 attacks were a very parent-centric event; meaning many of the victims killed were young to middle age professionals whose girlfriends later married or their spouses remarried. If anything, children needed to be raised by the surviving spouses which left many little time for activism. This left parents largely, though not exclusively (the Jersey Girls were representative of the activist widows and widowers), to be advocates for the fallen along with siblings. The defense knows this and plays delay after delay to run the emotional clock of the event out as parents of September 11th victims are increasingly joining their children in the afterlife.
This does not stop the prosecution. While their mission is laborious and difficult, they carry on.
In a sense, the defense has already exonerated the mission of the prosecution. It is not vengeance for the prosecution; too much time has passed for that to be the motive. The prosecution is made up of people of great fight and stamina. They are people who have turned down more money, in terms of outside positions or promotions, to stay on the case. Their motive is something much more decent, pure and important than their enemies offer. The motive of the prosecution is remembrance and justice.
More than once a parent of a September 11th victim has said they can die in peace knowing that someone is fighting on their behalf. Grief may not know a timetable, but neither does justice. Today, as we pay tribute to those who fell 18 years ago, and continue to die because of those events, we also remember, and root for, those who battle day in and day out to ensure justice is done.
*Views expressed in this article are those of the author and not any government or military agency.