Sergeant Major Larry Strickland
Attack Location: Pentagon
Home: Woodbridge, Virginia
At 52, Larry Strickland was golden. A 30-year Army veteran working out of the Pentagon and a Sergeant Major less than a month from retirement, he had built up considerable leave time. So he could have taken September 11, 2001, off to relax and perhaps replace some siding on his home in Woodbridge.
The day's possibilities were seemingly a prelude to the rhythms of a new life coming. He had told people that retirement would afford him more time than ever with his wife, Debra, a command sergeant major at Fort Belvoir, their three grown children, Julia, Matthew and Chris, and their grandson, Brendan.
He looked forward to plunging into his hobbies — fishing, hiking, gourmet cooking and needlepoint, among others — and, after a suitable break, accepting a job in private industry. An accomplished handyman who built his own deck, he would be able to indulge his prodigious appetite for building and repairing things. That siding, for example, had become a priority.
“He'd been talking a lot about the siding, and I think that's probably what he would have been doing if he'd stayed home,” said his mother, Olga. “It would've been fun for him.”
But Strickland, a senior enlisted adviser to the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff of personnel, decided to work that day. “He didn't want to miss some important meetings that had been planned,” said his mother, who lives with her husband, Lee, in Edmonds, Washington, the town where Larry Strickland grew up with his younger sister, Donna Marie. “He was a very responsible, hard-working man. So he went to his office,” his mother said.
After a television station reported that American Airlines Flight 77 had plunged into the Pentagon, she did not move from her chair in front of the screen for hours. “I was looking for any ray of hope,” she said. “But I'd been to his second-floor office, and I remembered where it was. When it came back that it was the west wing that had been struck, I knew it was his section. . . . A couple days later, an Army Chaplain and another man came to see me, unannounced. I knew.”
Her son had a rich life, she said, picturing him fishing on Puget Sound alongside his father last month, shortly before Lee Strickland's 85th birthday. Family members remember Larry Strickland as a man at ease with himself, who when teased about his needlepoint passion could charmingly find an association with a tough former football star: “Hey, Rosey Grier does this.”
“I cling to memories,” said Olga Strickland. “It's the only thing left.”
Reviewed by: Michael Howard