Patriot Day has been observed every September 11 since December 2001, when the U.S. Congress signed a joint resolution to honor the lives of those who died or were injured in the terrorist attack.
On Patriot Day, the President issues a proclamation calling on state and local governments to observe Patriot Day with appropriate programs, organizations to display the flag of the United States at half-staff, and for the people of the United States to observe a moment of silence (specifically at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time when the first plane hit the World Trade Center).
As we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11, our minds go to those brave men and women who risked their lives for the sake of others and their country. In fact, the American spirit demonstrated on September 11 is why the holiday earned the title “Patriot Day.”
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a patriot is “a person who loves his or her country and is ready to boldly support and defend it.”
Our lives today have been shaped by these American patriots and those that came before them. Take time this Patriot Day to learn their stories.
As the Founding Father of the United States and the First President of the United States, George Washington is the obvious first person to appear on a list of American patriots. (We will cover some lesser-known American patriots below, so don’t quit reading yet!)
In fact, he is often referred to as the original American patriot. Before he earned these titles, Washington was the commander of the Continental Army and led the troops to victory during the Revolutionary War.
His love for his country and dedicated support of the American cause are why his name and face appear on monuments and roads across our nation – we are honoring America’s original patriot.
A schoolteacher turned soldier, Nathan Hale is another Revolutionary War patriot.
After fighting broke out in Concord and Lexington, Nathan Hale joined the Continental army’s Seventh Connecticut Regiment.
Upon joining, Hale bravely volunteered to spy on the British troops by going behind enemy lines and reporting back on their movements. The British eventually caught Hale and sentenced him to death by hanging for spying.
According to Connecticut History, “A British engineer in attendance at Hale’s execution said he heard Hale proclaim, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country’ […].”
His bravery and patriotism continue to inspire Americans.
You are no doubt familiar with the story of Paul Revere whose midnight ride warned the colonists of the coming British attack, thus beginning the Revolutionary War.
But, have you heard of Sybil Ludington, aka the female Paul Revere?
According to the American Battlefield Trust, “16-year-old Sybil Ludington sits astride her steed, Star. Ludington made her ride on April 26, 1777, during a driving rainstorm, traveling forty miles, and unlike Revere, avoiding capture. […] Not unlike Revere who two years earlier roused the communities outside of Boston to British troops being on the march to seize arms, Ludington spurred her horse, prodding him with a stick to raise the alarm in Putnam County, New York.”
It wasn’t until 1961 that she was recognized as an American patriot when the Daughters of the American Revolution brought her story to the nation’s attention.
When people think of archeologists, many people think of Indiana Jones. What if I told you that the character of Indiana Jones may have been created with a specific American patriot in mind?
It’s possible. I’ll let you be the judge.
Sylvanus Morley was an American archeologist from the 1920s to the late 1940s with a focus on the ancient Mayan culture.
But, his work included much more than excavating structures from the Yucatan.
According to The Guardian, “Sylvanus Morley was one of many American archaeologists who used their profession as cover for gathering intelligence on Germany's presence in Central America in this period. Morley traveled more than 2,000 miles of coast hunting for evidence of submarines.”
He toured archeological sites, but he also bravely reported possible German agents, shortwave broadcast stations, and submarine bases.
The Guardian reports, “His archaeological credentials provided great cover and some historians have called Morley ‘arguably the best secret agent the United States produced during the first world war.’”
Virginia Hall wanted to be a United States Foreign Service officer, but a hunting accident left her with a wooden prosthetic leg and a limp. As a result, she was denied the job she wanted.
But, that didn’t stop her from being a true patriot.
Instead, she used her extensive knowledge of Europe and her ability to speak multiple languages to become a spy for the British and the United States gathering intel on Nazi Germany.
She quickly earned a reputation.
According to Time, “Even then she was patronized and underestimated until she proved herself capable of eluding the Gestapo longer than any of her male Allied colleagues and particularly adept at recruiting and organizing useful assets in the nucleus of what would become the Resistance armies of the future. She also masterminded spectacular jailbreaks for fellow agents who had been captured.”
She did such an incredible job that the Nazi secret police hunted her. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “The Gestapo's orders were clear and merciless: ‘She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.’"
The tactics she used during WWII are still used today by the CIA, who claims she was the “most successful American female spy of the Second World War.”
Passengers on Flight 93
Of course, how can we celebrate Patriot Day without honoring some of the patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11.
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives took over four planes. One plane Flight 93 was intended to hit either the White House or the U.S. Capitol. That didn’t happen because of the patriots on Flight 93.
According to History, “Countless people who might’ve perished in Washington were spared because of a passenger revolt—a heroic struggle undertaken with whatever low-tech weapons they and the cabin crew members could muster.”
All 44 people on Flight 93 died that day when the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. The passengers and crew of Flight 93 knew what fate awaited them, so they worked together to attack the cockpit once they were above rural land.
“Are you guys ready?” one of the passengers Todd Beamer could be heard saying to the others while on a call with a telephone operator. “Let’s roll.”
They made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
It’s important to recognize four-legged patriots, too, like Riley, a golden retriever who was a member of FEMA's Pennsylvania Task Force 1.
He was one of 300 dogs who were enlisted to search for live people at sites where the 9/11 attacks took place. While he was never a formally trained cadaver dog, he helped locate the bodies of several firefighters and never stopped searching for the living in the rubble.
Take time to remember, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply