Greg Sorlie and Larry Strickland were high school band buddies in Edmonds, but like many relationships forged as teenagers, theirs eventually faded after graduating from Edmonds High School in 1967.
But a few years after Sept. 11, 2001, Sorlie discovered that Strickland was one of 184 people killed at the Pentagon after American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building. Today, with the news that 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden is dead, Sorlie echoed the sentiments of many who knew victims of that day.
“Just like everybody else, I’m glad he’s finally been eliminated,” said Sorlie, who is 61 and now lives in Olympia. “I’m certainly concerned, though, about the radical terrorist forces that are still out there. There may be some retaliation. But it’s certainly good news, especially for those who lost relatives, friends or family on 9/11 and after in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Strickland, a 30-year Army veteran working out of the Pentagon and a sergeant major less than a month from retirement, was 52 when he died. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and according to its website, he left behind his mother, Olga; father, Lee; wife, Debra; and three children: Julia, Matthew and Chris.
Strickland, senior enlisted adviser to the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff of personnel, is memorialized on a granite plaque outside the on Fifth Avenue that is dedicated to local victims of war. Strickland’s name is on the bottom left of the memorial.
Strickland’s name is also on one of the 184 benches that are part of the Pentagon Memorial, dedicated on Sept. 11, 2008.
Strickland could have had Sept. 11, 2001, off, but decided to go to work instead. “He didn't want to miss some important meetings that had been planned,” Olga Strickland told the Arlington website.
After a television station reported that American Airlines Flight 77 had plunged into the Pentagon, she did not move from her chair for hours, staring at the screen and hoping for good news.
“I was looking for any ray of hope,” Olga Strickland told the website. “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.”
At the time of his death, Strickland lived in Woodbridge, VA. After his death, a U.S. Army leadership award was established in his name and is given annually.
“He was a great guy,” said his high school friend Sorlie. “He was respected. People looked up to him.”