I posted this on my personal Facebook page, but felt compelled to share it with you here as well. I have to warn that I kept this in the same form I posted on my page, so there is a vulgar word. I am leaving it in there as I believe it best captures the moment, and the account is the truth as I remember it that fateful day.
Like many service members who serve because of a desire to pursue their patriotism, I consider myself one of the idealists. And am thankful that I was able to return to service at the young tender age of 37 a couple years ago!
I was running late that day. Some people dread Mondays, but I hated every day of the week at the time. Feeling trapped in life in a fairly high-paying corporate sales job, I usually made myself late by taking advantage of “my” morning before enduring the drudgery of my career at the time. So, it was not uncommon for me to be at home at 9 am.
My phone rang just after 9 and Dan said, “Where you at? You near a TV?” He said, “Turn on a TV, you aren’t going to believe what just happened.” I hung up and flicked on the TV to see the now smoldering first tower of the World Trade Center. The talking heads on TV were discussing how a small commuter plane could have been the cause, but no one was quite yet sure. This was only minutes after the first crash.
I, clad in my three-piece suite and $100 Ike Behar tie, sat and watched with mostly curiosity at that point on what and how this crash had happened. I nestled into my chair for the long haul since there really wasn’t anything exciting to look forward to at work, and decided like tens of millions other Americans at 9ish am on a Tuesday morning to watch the excitement of the crazy event unfold live.
Not even minutes after I got comfortable in my chair, the second jetliner came screaming from the rear right of the picture and slammed into the the second tower live, right in front of my eyes. I stood to my feet, and uncontrollably yelled, “NO” at the TV set as a sickening feeling of watching the immediate death of everyone of the people on that plane, and the thousands inside the building during the explosion.
A sickening feeling came over me as I slowly slumped back into my chair, a witness live to the most destructive and devastating terrorist act on American soil in our nation’s history. “That was no fucking commuter plane”, I said angrily to myself. My sickening feeling quickly and easily turned to anger. The muscles most notably in my arms and legs began to twitch slightly, like one experiences after a long, enduring run, or other strenuous physical activity. I got up and without taking my affixed, numbed stare off of the TV, I started to pace back and forth. Then the news reporters started to debate what I started to think myself – that this may have been a terrorist act. Then came news of the crash in Pennsylvania and then the crash into the Pentagon.
Our nation was once again at war. And I was really pissed off. That day changed me inside.
As a combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, I witnessed first hand the devastating effects of what the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait did to that region. I participated directly as a combat soldier in liberating Kuwait and advancing with the elite 82nd Airborne Division far into Iraq to just outside of An-Nasariyha on the banks of the Euphrates River. Fortunately, that war only lasted several months, but that experience burned into me a patriotism for everything American, and our position in the world as the most powerful, and at the time, most important symbol of righteousness in the world. I was proud to have served, and knew that if my country ever needed me again I would quickly and easily stand in the gap again.
In my heart, I felt that call again on 9-11-01 on that morning. I didn’t know who the enemy was and I didn’t care. You don’t mess with America, and you certainly don’t attack her innocent civilians on her own soil.
Like all immediate reactions when you feel violated, I stewed with my friend and fellow citizens about how this could happen to America, to “us”. All the talk came in about Osama Bin Lade, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and others. President Bush acted swiftly and without regret to provide an appropriate response. We were at war with terrorism.
On 9/11 I had the beginnings of something that would become a very successful business in the years ahead. Even though I felt the call, I also felt other responsibilities to friends and business partners to begin what I had started. It was just too inconvenient to run off and fight a war at that time in my life. Several times in 2002 and 2004 I started the initial process to join the military as a reservist to do my part in the war. See, it is difficult for those of us who have the innate “calling” to fight a war. Those who never pick up a weapon and serve never get that call and they don’t understand how consuming that feeling can be. It goes away from time to time, but always…always comes back. Sometimes it comes back stronger than others.
Fast forward to late 2006 – me, standing in my kitchen crying my eyes out in front of my wife because this time that feeling came back with such intensity I started making phone calls this time intent on serving my country and fighting the war. I was trying to explain the torment going on inside of me despite the success we were having in our professional lives. I know it was difficult for her to understand at the time. My business at the time and my career at the time was at a high point. But, the war was continuing in full swing in two places on the globe, and I WASN’T IN THE FIGHT. That is near impossible to push away when you know it is your place to be there too. Not only because you are called, but because you are also good at it. Designed for it. Prepared for it. Only those who fight the fight know what I am talking about.
2008. Many things changed for me in 2008. I was at a difficult period professionally, personally and emotionally. In September 2008 that undeniable call came again. This time was the time. After much prayer, thought and contemplation with my wife I made the decision to join the Army again as an Army officer and finally, put the suit back on, get into the game and play first string on the front line. I put everything else professionally on hold to do it the right way and fulfill that nagging calling that had been present with me since 2001.
I am here in Iraq because I was called to be here. That’s it. My country deserves the best of one of her citizens that was designed with a certain mentality, a control over emotions in the fog of war and a honed skill set that allows me to do what I do and prayerfully do it well on my nation’s behalf.
I am thankful to have a wonderful country that deserves every effort I can give to make a difference. I am thankful that I have a loving, wonderful and respectful wife that serves the needs of her husband even if that need calls our entire family temporarily on a different and many times inconvenient path. I am thankful for friends, family and business associates who were understanding as best as they could be about a man’s calling to service.
And most importantly. I am thankful and wonderfully fearful of a holy God who before the beginning of time planned these steps for me, provided that calling for me and has protected me and my family through this walk on a path less traveled. I owe everything I am and everything I become to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy in my life and thank you for the purpose-filled adventure you have given me.
Thank you America.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28