Date Submitted: 12/21/2017
I was a young SSG stationed at Fort Drum, NY in an infantry unit of the 10th Mountain Division. Our company just got finished with a nice company run and I was standing in the company CP talking to the 1SG about how beautiful it was outside and that maybe we should kick the guys loose early since in Northern NY the weather doesn't stay nice long after September. As we were discussing it the company cp phone rang and it was the company XO, he had a sense of urgency in his voice and told me that a plane hit the World Trade Center. I hung up the phone and told the 1SG what the XO reported. We went into the company day room and turned on the TV and sure enough there it was the one tower of the WTC burning. The 1SG knew I was a career firefighter prior to my military days and asked me about how the FDNY would handle such a large incident and I explained to him that men would need to march up steps with 100's of pounds of equipment until they hit the fire floor and begin fighting the fire. We stood there watching the TV and listening to the news report when the second tower got hit. We both just looked at each other knowing that there was no way this was an accident. Before we could say anything the company CQ desk phone rang. I picked up the phone and it was the Battalion CSM, he ordered my 1SG to his office and to have me begin a total company recall of all soldiers and officers.
I hung up the phone and and looked up and before me stood several young soldiers who lived in the barracks with a look of confusion and anger. I told one soldier to begin the recall procedure and to have all off base personnel report immediately and this was not a drill. Before I could make it back to the company CP the phones were ringing like crazy. The company commander arrived and he looked at me and said "You know this means war and we just went on DRF1 (Division Ready Force 1) which meant we were the first unit to be deployed anywhere in the world in 72 hours. Our equipment was already packed and on skids at the airfield for rapid deployment. The next few hours were chaotic at best, multiple warning orders coming down and where and when we would deploy, reports of additional planes hitting other cities. The unit went on complete lock down and we were moved to the airfield. Nobody knew that morning that we would be leaving home to be the first unit into Afghanistan and not returning until late spring 2012. For many of us our quick 5 minute phone call to our loved ones that morning would be the last time we would speak to them for 7 months and for some that would be the last time they would see their loved ones.
My unit deployed many times before 9/11 to other countries for various reasons but this time it was different, this time it was personal, and this time we weren't deploying to establish peace or keep the peace. This time we were deploying to send a loud and clear message that the United States will not sit by and become a victim. We deployed to seek out and destroy our attackers, to make them pay for what they have done. This time the deployment truly meant something to every man that got on that plane to head to a foreign land and the eyes of America were upon us and expected no lesser of a response than we delivered.
Afghanistan ended my military career do to injury. I have no regrets.
It was as if everyone in that church understood, the world had to change, that we had to change to rise above events like 9/11 and be a more united planet.
James (story excerpt)