Inside the Pentagon

E-mail: Jamie Colby
Photo Essay: Jamie Visits the Pentagon!

I don’t know if you are born brave or if you become brave, but I know that I have stared bravery in the face. The more military stories I cover, the more opportunities I’ve had to meet brave men and women, and hear their firsthand anecdotes of their multiple deployments. The work they are doing in Iraq, they tell me, continues to keep us safe here at home.

Five years ago, I went to my first Army installation at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. At the time, 17 and 18-year-old soldiers were enthusiastically packing their gear, fine-tuning their M-16s and, with conviction, telling family members they’d return from combat soon. Some were so new to the military — having been impacted in some way by the events of 9-11 and enlisted — that they hardly had a feel for what it meant to serve in our all-volunteer armed forces. Few knew they’d never be the same. Some would never return home.

It was at Fort Hood where I met Col. James McConville, Commander of the First Cavalry. During my stay there, his cavalry toured Iraq and, two Apache pilots were shot down, captured and rescued. His leadership during the crisis was remarkable; it was clear that he exhibited the very essence of "Army Strong."

Four years after that first meeting, I had the chance to visit again with Col. McConville. I was invited to be a part of a test flight on a new helicopter, The Lakota, with the Army’s Vice Chief, Gen. Richard Cody. Both are master army aviators, committed soldiers and extremely well respected leaders. (Click here to see photos of The Lakota)

When I heard on that trip that Col. McConville was going to be promoted to general, I knew I wanted to be there; it would also be my first visit to the Pentagon. I’d followed Col. McConville’s every move at Fort Hood and I still hear from soldiers who served under him how much they admire and respect him. Mission accomplished! Taking a vacation day could not have been better spent!

At the promotion ceremony, Gen. Cody gave the opening remarks, including details of Col. McConville’s leadership of the First Cavalry and 101st Airborne. Brig. Gen. McConville officially entering his next realm of military service as a general, when his three children, Michael, Jessica and Ryan, assisted in upgrading his uniform. It was an emotional and rewarding moment for all, to say the least.

The hero of the day though — according to both Gen. Cody and Gen. McConville — was Mrs. McConville! Maria and Gen. McConville have been married for 20 years and their family has lived in 17 different locations as a result of his military service. It was made clear at the ceremony that Maria, through her own sacrifice, has served both her country and family with distinction. Leave it to Gen. McConville to decide the best way to reward her … he got a star and Maria got new jewelry. Good move General!

My day at the Pentagon went beyond the promotion ceremony (and the red, white and blue cake!) There is a very moving memorial for those who lost their lives on 9/11 — in fact, while survivors of military members who died received purple hearts, family members of civilians who worked and died that day at the Pentagon received a special medal of honor. There are plans for a public memorial to everyone who perished there — construction is in the works and when it is completed, it should not be missed. Reflecting pools and 184 benches for each innocent life lost arranged from youngest (3-year-old Dana Falkenberg) to oldest (71- year-old John Yamnicky) will be built — including one for every passenger who died on Flight 77. The benches and reflecting pool will be surrounded by a wall that starts at three inches and builds to 71 inches — again, representing every life lost.

Take a look at the chapel where family members can come to pay their respects. It has stained glass windows, made of 184 pieces of glass. There is also a book with a page for every victim. It’s a solemn yet spiritual place and I’m glad I got to see it. I’m also including pictures of the Hall of Heroes with the name of every soldier recognized from the Civil War through the operations in Iraq. Leave it to this reporter to ask my Air Force tour guide Casey and Brig. Gen. Steve Mundt how many women have their names on the wall. Only one — and she wasn’t even in the military!

Dr. Mary E. Walker was a surgeon whose husband was in the military. In the midst of combat, as the story goes, she stole a uniform, put it on and went to provide medical care to the wounded. She was bestowed a Medal of Honor, but had it revoked. Years later it was re-awarded, but to her great-grandchildren.

I also visited the Army Operations Center — an integral part of what the Army does at the Pentagon — synthesizing information and video feeds from around the world, making sure that data gets into the right hands for analysis or action in real time. I’m not able to show you photos from inside, but you can see I was greeted warmly and sent home with an amazing photograph of the construction workers celebrating the work they did to restore the Pentagon. Brig. Gen. Randy Manner also gifted me a piece of the destroyed structure — leaving me speechless.

Please check out the links to new information for all veterans and for parents and grandparents of deploying soldiers and I hope you will continue to support the troops. They are working so hard — bravery and sacrifice for all.

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Jamie Colby joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in July 2003 and currently serves as a news correspondent and anchor of "FOX News Live" on Saturdays and Sundays (2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET). She anchored coverage of the passing of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI from Rome. You can read her complete bio here.