Nearly 17 years ago, 39 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they were inserted by helicopter onto a godforsaken middle eastern landscape to fight the Taliban on horseback alongside warlords of the Northern Alliance. On Saturday, three of them were inserted onto a parade float alongside American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan in Indianapolis.
U.S. Army 5th Special Forces Group veterans Mark Nutsch, Chris Spence and Will Summers – along with West Point Cadet and American Legion Boys State alum Levi Baldridge – rolled along the crowded streets of Indianapolis and heard cheers from the crowd. The entry’s title expressed a long-held philosophy of the nation’s largest veterans organization: peace through strength.
The Legion’s 500 Festival Parade float won the prestigious President’s Award for most original design concept earlier in the week. It featured a replica of the “America’s Response Monument” that now stands near Ground Zero in New York City. The statue, featuring a 21st century Special Forces soldier on an ancient-bred Afghanistan saddle horse, has come to illustrate the ongoing war on terror, America’s earliest ground response to the attacks.
“It was the initial symbol, the icon right after 9/11,” said Nutsch, whose real-life role in the early fighting inspired the 2018 hit movie “12 Strong.”
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