Sitting tonight watching the History Channel; Remembering 9-11. It is crazy how these images can bring the same feeling of absolute numbness into my gut as if it was happening at this very moment. I was 27 years old, less than nine months removed from an honorable discharge from the United States Army after four years, and a lifetime of great times. The Army had led me to my wife and family, It had taken me from Pennsylvania, to training in Missouri, then Texas, to a year long tour in Korea, and eventually to Utah, where I found the only reason that I could ever separate from the Army. My wife and kids.
But, on that day, 9-11-01, a day that for those of us that lived through it could not possibly ever forget, I stood in disbelief in the lobby of the U.S Army Health Clinic on Tooele Army Depot - Tooele, UT. It was the site of my civilian Army job (I had taken it after leaving the active Army) and wondered how that very moment would change my life. It was the event that propelled me back to the uniform, back to where I knew with all my heart I truly belonged. As badly as I wanted to put my family first, as badly as I wanted to avoid having to leave them for weeks and months at a time, I could not turn my back on the duty I felt obligated to continue, wearing the uniform of a United States Army Soldier.
There are things in life that are difficult to explain, there are things in life that do not need to be explained. Although all the rest of my military career would be served out in the Army National Guard, it would still lead me to Iraq, the greatest accomplishment in my professional life, and continued honorable service that when it is all said and done, can ever be taken away from me, or my family. What is often overlooked when honoring service members is the obvious fact that their accomplishments are not theirs alone, but a direct result of the support that surrounds them. My year in Iraq was not a burden to me, yes, the separation was difficult, leaving my family at home, but the mission was essential and fulfilling, it was what I felt I was meant to do, it was what I dreamed of doing since joining the military in 1997. However, even great success in life sometimes can lead to consequences that were not foreseen, my service is a simple example of this.
From my book: Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice"
After being honorably discharged, I left the uniform for what I thought would be forever. Little did I know that within a year all Americans would experience something that they could’ve never contemplated. My official ETS (End of Time in Service) was January 14, 2001. Service in the US Military has so many perks it’s hard to believe that everyone isn’t knocking down the doors to get in. I guess you have to be willing to leave the life you hold so dear and sacrifice some of your time. I suppose that might make some people hesitant, selflessly volunteering to become… well, simply put, a "disposable hero." Joining the military is not an easy decision to make; if it were, we would see a majority of our population making the commitment, not such a minority.
September 11, 2001, happened to all Americans, but truly affected thousands in the city that is the pulse of our nation. I remember the morning as if it were yesterday, and the days following as if they were also a recent memory. It is hard to minimize the immensity of the World Trade Center lying in the heart of New York City, with the North Tower billowing smoke, having been hit by a commercial airliner. We all know exactly where we were and what we were doing that day, the world stopped, and we gazed upon what would keep us mesmerized and unite us as a country for what should have been the foreseeable future. We were focused after that day; we waged war on the Taliban and chased them out of Afghanistan for aiding, giving safe haven and support to the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda. But we lost focus fast, our lives within the borders of the United States returning to normal, and we, over time, have slowly let go of the memories of that horrific day. I’ve had a hard time letting them go. They still ignite a fire that burns inside me today. It’s the reason I would pick up a weapon and kill willingly and without regret for this country. Violently and with a clear conscience—yes, I would. I can even imagine doing it with my bare hands, squeezing the life out of our enemies, slowly watching them pass into the next life, to meet the only judge and jury which waits after this life. I understand these feelings most likely won’t get me bonus points when it’s my turn to be judged, but I have no regrets for this thought process. One day it may be what saves my life, my family’s lives, my fellow soldiers’ lives, or the lives of other freedom-loving individuals around the world. I get fired up thinking about what was done to this country on that day, but realize that it was not my personal hell to live through. It happened to the citizens of New York City and the surrounding communities, the families of all those aboard American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93, along with those at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Although the Pentagon is a strategic military target and I can understand our enemies attacking it, I will not stand for our enemies targeting the civilian population of this nation, who do nothing but get up and go to work every day to try to provide the support and nourishment they need for themselves and their families. There is no need to bring them into this. I would never think about targeting civilians in the countries where our military operates regardless of the need to kill an enemy hiding within that population. I serve to help those people, the civilian population, the ones not strong enough to help themselves—and especially the ones who want to live with the knowledge that they can do what they want under the banner of freedom.
So here the memories are, etched into our minds the way our enemies want them to be so we have a constant reminder of what they are capable of doing to us. I guess that’s what we deserve for leaving our borders open and inviting the world in, to make this country an example of what society will be thousands of years from now, an eclectic mixture of races, religions, and sexualities. It amazes me that anyone would want to take advantage of us that badly. We are open to the world, but now we’re finding it more and more difficult to trust, so it is time to enact laws and erect walls to seclude us from the earthly society that will one day be present on this planet. It won’t happen in my lifetime, but at some point the borders of countries will be more of a transition point than a line separating different people. Eventually we could be living in United Countries of Earth, or at least I imagine it could be, giving some sign of hope and optimism to this cruel, unforgiving world.
I had been out of the Army for almost eight full months when that defining day for our generation occurred. It made me think how life might have been if I stayed in the Army, what could’ve happened, where I would’ve gone, and the need for my family to adapt to the ever-changing and unstable world that our active service members now live in. Early on, when we started sending troops to Afghanistan, I was heartbroken. I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to do my time, and serve during my generation’s military conflict. Little did I know during those moments that all the pain I felt for not giving would turn on me, would overwhelm me, and make me an extremely vulnerable person. We always need to be careful what we wish for, it might come true. In November 2001, I decided to put the uniform back on, albeit as a member of the Army National Guard—a part time soldier, one weekend a month, two weeks during the summer. Something I never thought I would do, but I needed that lifeline back to the Army green I’d grown to love during my active duty time. When I enlisted in the National Guard I was ignorant to what it was—I thought that true soldiers were only those who served full time, what I once knew. The National Guard was a new and foreign adventure, it seemed, before I started serving
God rest the souls from that day, 9-11-01. You will never be forgotten.