A Veteran’s Years-Long Service After 9/11

A composite image shows a pair of black leather combat boots. The boots are polished but well worn, and the leather is cracking in places. Next to the boots is a medal depicts an American flag and the Statue of Liberty with raised text: "DEFENSE OF LIBERTY | NEW YORK STATE." The medal is attached to a multicolored ribbon with a bar pin for affixing it to a uniform.
Kevin Mroczkowski donated the combat boots he wore at Ground Zero and a medal in recognition of his service to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, Gift of Kevin M. Mroczkowski. Photos by Michael Hnatov.

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of our nation’s service members during the annual Salute to Service week. We remember the members of the military, both retired and those on active duty, who responded by the thousands in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Among them was Vietnam War Army veteran and New York State National Guardsman Kevin Mroczkowski.

Mroczkowski was living near Newburgh, New York, when the Twin Towers were hit on the morning of September 11. Within 12 hours, he and more than 8,000 other National Guard soldiers would be at Ground Zero taking up many vital roles.

Mroczkowski was first deployed to the National Guard’s armory on Staten Island, where he and others bunked for two weeks while taking ferries to lower Manhattan to provide military protection at Ground Zero.

During this time, he was initially tasked with preventing the public from entering the “frozen zone,” where it was feared numerous buildings could collapse at any moment. He then helped safeguard the Williamsburg Bridge as part of troop details sent to protect vital infrastructure in the city like bridges, tunnels, and train stations. A year after the attacks, Mroczkowski was doing Guard duty at Penn Station.

He was awarded with a Defense of Liberty Medal by New York Governor George Pataki on September 8, 2002. He ultimately donated this medal to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, along with other belongings that include a U.S. flag given to him by the National Guard and black leather combat boots he wore at Ground Zero.

He said he cared for and polished the boots every day despite regularly trudging through four inches of pulverized ash at the World Trade Center site. He said he did this because he was on a military assignment requiring each soldier to pass a morning company formation inspection.

Mroczkowski died at the age of 69 on July 3, 2019, after a battle with cancer. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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