Honoring heroes, one step at a time
Despite suffering intense pain on his left leg just seconds before he reached the finish line, Robert F. Alonzo managed to cross the finish line honoring 9/11 heroes and those who lost their lives.
On Sept. 9, on a rainy day, Texas A&M University-San Antonio held its fourth annual 9/11 Heroes Run event on behalf of the Travis Manion Foundation. This event has united the community and first responders by acknowledging and recognizing the service to those who provided the country with security and freedom.
“If you’ve been part of this event before, you know that when we gather today it’s far more than just a 5K race. We gather for the opportunity though also to honor the legacy and character of those who have gone before us,” said board member of the Travis Manion Foundation Barbara Orr.
The Travis Manion Foundation was created in remembrance of Travis Manion who was killed by a sniper in Iraq. “The whole “If Not Me, Then Who…that’s the event’s motto,” said Military Community Liaison and U.S. Army Retired, Timothy L. Smith, Jr. “Right before his deployment for Iraq, Manion’s buddies asked him why he had to go to which he replied, “If not me, then who.”” Manion’s brother-in-law, Dave Borek, said he jokingly put his hand on Manion’s shoulder and said, “Let me push you down these stairs and hopefully you’ll break an ankle and that way you won’t have to deploy.”
After a former student and now friend told Alonzo, Professional Track Faculty-Criminology, about the event, he decided to join this year to show his appreciation after all these years.
“To remember, honor, and thank those and their families that assisted, those that gave some, and those that gave all for this country at that time and to thank those that continue to provide us with the blanket of freedom and security we appreciate today,” Alonzo said.
Shortly after the 9/11 attack, Alonzo along with the FBI team were at the San Antonio International Airport going through files and records looking for and analyzing any information that could provide intelligence to assist in the FBI PENTTBOM (Pentagon/Twin Towers/Bombing) Major Case.
“I still remember it like it was yesterday,” said Alonzo. “It is interesting when you witness a catastrophic event that has no immediate explanation, how your senses heighten and your focus sharpens,” said Alonzo. “Having been aware of Al-Qaeda’s issues, but not directly involved at that point, my first reaction to the second jet was… we are at war.”
Professor Alonzo was part of a Joint Terrorism Task Force that was formed at CIA Headquarters. The task force consisted of Special Agents and Analysts from the US State Department, FBI, CIA, IRS, and Customs. The Task Force was sent on a mission to Kuwait to convey intelligence information directly linked to terrorist financing in the Middle East.
Upon his return to the FBI San Antonio Division HQ, Professor Alonzo traveled to various cities in the United States providing information to members of financial institutions and money-service organizations. The information was directly related to migrating terrorist financing, identifying individuals, entities, states and non-states actors that provided financial support to the 9/11 hijackers.
For Alonzo, participating in the 9/11 Heroes Run was his way of thanking those that kept the country safe and those that continue to do so today.
“My thoughts were with those I served with at FBI HQ in Washington, DC, at CIA HQ in Langley, VA, and at the US Embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait,” said Alonzo
Alonzo placed first in his age group and plans on continuing to run for those who selflessly defended the country.
“I will support them every year that I can, no doubt.” said Alonzo.
“Honor them and support them in any way we can, as they were the tip of the spear following 9/11 and their successors and those of us that still can, now carry the responsibility,” said Alonzo.
For more information on the 9/11 Heroes Run, contact Military Affairs at (210) 784-1397 and firstname.lastname@example.org.