EEven though Marshall-native David “Heath” Zeigler Jr. was just a seventh grader when the terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, it’s not something he’ll soon forget.
As a Petty Officer Second Class in the US Navy, Zeigler has the privilege of serving on the USS Somerset, named after Somerset County, Pa., In honor of the 40 passengers and crew who died during the United Airline Flight 93 hijacked.
Zeigler joined the Navy 10 years ago and can vividly recall memories of 9/11.
“I was shocked and incredulous when we saw him on the news in class,” recalls Zeigler. “I didn’t really get it until I got home that afternoon and talked to my parents about it. To be here on board the USS Somerset taking the time to remember those who sacrificed their lives that day, and all those who fought and sacrificed their lives in the years that followed, is incredibly important and it really affects home. This event galvanized us as a nation and reminded us that we have an important role to play in the world.
The sailor joined the Navy because he wanted a different direction in life and to make a contribution to the nation.
According to Zeigler, who graduated from Marshall High School in 2007, the values required to be successful in the military are similar to those of Marshall.
“Respect is so important in all aspects of life,” Zeigler said. “Mutual respect is what makes things work. “
In the weeks following the Flight 93 crash, salvage personnel recovered more than 95% of the plane wreckage from the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. The bow and keel of the USS Somerset are forged from steel recovered from the crash. Each deck of the ship contains memorabilia from Flight 93, including a dedicated passage leading to the memorial room, which bears the names of the passengers.
According to Department of Defense (DoD) officials, “We honor the lives of those lost and the courage and bravery of the first responders who have worked tirelessly to save lives. They are now part of the extended DoD family.
According to US officials, passengers and crew on the flight prevented the hijackers from reaching their suspected destination in Washington, DC; instead of crashing near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Those on board Flight 93 embodied the strength and determination of the American people to rise up, rally and fight the enemy, honoring the memory of those affected by the attacks.
“It is an incredible honor to carry on the legacy of service of the 40 heroes of United Flight 93,” said Captain Dave Kurtz, Commander Somerset. “As sailors, we play the game outside so the Americans don’t have to react like those passengers and crew did 20 years ago. Their actions remain our inspiration.
Serving in the Navy means that Zeigler is part of a world that takes on new significance in the United States’ focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances, and reforming business practices in support for the national defense strategy.
“We exist to protect the American way of life,” Zeigler said. “We are keeping the shipping lanes open and making sure we have access where we need to be.”
With over 90% of all trade by sea and 95% of the world’s international telephone and internet traffic passing through fiber-optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to stress that prosperity and the security of the United States are directly linked to the Navy.
Zeigler and the sailors they serve with have many opportunities to achieve greatness during their military service.
“In my current assignment, I’m the only person doing my job and that’s a big responsibility,” Zeigler said. “I also love that I can take things that I am learning and share them with others to help them become better at what they do.”
One of those missions aboard the USS Somerset, according to her father, David H. Zeigler Sr., is to manage the ship’s museum dedicated to Somerset County and those who lost their lives on 9/11.
“We couldn’t be more proud of the sailor he has become. The opportunities he has had in the Navy are simply enormous. He has seen and will see more of the world than I will ever see him, ”his father said.
David and his wife Laura both visited Heath aboard the USS Somerset in June and his father also spent time with him in 2012 when he was part of the final crew of the USS Enterprise CVN-65.
As Zeigler and other Sailors continue to train, they are proud to serve their country in the United States Navy.
“Serving in the Navy means that regardless of what I do personally, I know I am part of an institution that is much bigger than me,” Zeigler added. “All the hard work, all the sacrifices we make is to keep our citizens safe. “