On September 11th, 2001, I was awakened by the sound of my phone ringing. It was an odd time to be getting a phone call. I picked up the phone and quickly hung it up. I knew if it was urgent, someone would come wake me up. The phone rang again almost immediately. I picked up. My wife was on the other end telling me how a plane had accidentally crashed into a tall building in New York City and the building was on fire. Then she said it may have blown up. What??
Obviously, this was big news. So, I decided to get out of bed quickly and turn on the news. The rooms we were in didn’t have TV. So, I went down the hall to the TV room. The room was already full. Many of my team mates were in there watching TV. Our eyes were glued to the TV to find out what had happened. Many of us had received similar calls from people back stateside watching the news.
As we watched, another plane slammed into the other World Trade Center Tower. At this point, it was obvious it wasn’t some sort of accident. News anchors speculated what had just happened. Who did it? What was their motivation? There was a moment of silence in the room. Then someone said, “We are at war.” At the time, no one knew just how right that person was. A war had been started on our soil.
The original plan for that deployment was to travel around the Pacific Theater. We’d do some training and operations in countries like Thailand, The Philippines, Australia and other such places. It occurred to us that those plans may have already been changed. The days that followed were filled with various intelligence briefings. By now, Al Qaeda had already taken ‘credit’ for this attack. Osama Bin Laden was on EVERYONE’s mind. As speculated, the original deployment plan was scrapped. All units would focus now on additional training & gear prep for potential re-tasking to the CENTCOM theater.
Days on the range were now even more important. We all took our training much more seriously. The same was true for intel briefings, planning and gear preparation. Soon, we would learn that our platoon would be re-tasked / re-depolyed to CENTCOM. In a couple short weeks time, we found ourselves in the Middle East. This ended up being the first of MANY deployments to this theater…..
In the 12 years since, many of our brothers-in-arms were wounded or killed in combat. Others were wounded or killed in training. The SEAL community stepped up to the challenge and gladly bore its share of this burden. The burden was war. The cost has been high. The stakes, even higher. Also during that time, many MORE of our brothers and sisters in arms from other branches of service were wounded or killed. As with our community, service men and women were killed conducting high risk combat operations against Al Qaeda and The Taliban. As with our community, members of other branches of service were wounded or killed just in training. With the stakes being so high now, the training frequency, intensity and duration was at a nearly unsustainable pace. It didn’t matter. Service men and women of all branches were happy to bear this load. The stakes were high.
Our nation has now been in a ‘post 9/11’ mode. As the years pass, it is easier and easier to forget. We forget about victims on the planes and in the World Trade Center towers & surrounding buildings. We forget about the brave men and women that tried to regain control of United Airlines Flight 93. We forget about all the first responders, firefighters, policemen and EMS personnel who rushed to the scene to help. We forget the rest of the year. We forget about the brave service men and women who fight, get injured and even die for us. More importantly, we forget about how this affects the families of ALL those involved.
We are reminded on 9/11….
So today, on this hallowed day in our history, remember those who were killed in this attack. Remember those who have been killed in terrorist attacks since. Remember the first responders who selflessly rushed into burning buildings while others fled. Remember those who stood against this enemy and brought the fight to their door. Remember the families of the victims and the families of the heroes who paid with their blood, sweat and tears for a country they swore an oath to defend.
Today, we ask that you’d go beyond ‘remembering’ on 9/11. We ask that you’d remember the toll on them and their families ALL YEAR. Remember that “Brave men stand ready in the night to visit violence on our behalf.” And remember that behind these brave men (and women) are families. Remember that long after these heroes are gone, the families still suffer. They suffer the obvious emotional anguish of losing a loved one. Other families suffer the hardships of having their loved one return with the physical and emotional injuries of combat.
Beyond remembering, there are a variety of other things we can all do. Times are tight, and it’s harder and harder to find room in our budgets to contribute. There are SO MANY great organizations, non profits, that benefit victims of terrorist attacks; the policemen, firemen and other first responders. There are also organizations that benefit the families of those service men and women wounded or killed in combat or training.
Veterans Passport to Hope provides a list of local charities and helps get military service men and women linked up with the appropriate charities. Nationally, there are a whole host of general and specific charities that also support the families of these brave service men and women.
One such organization is the Navy SEAL Foundation. We wrote about this foundation in an earlier blog post here. As mentioned previously, the Navy SEAL Foundation is the beneficiary of our RED Shirt Friday program this month. Each month, we are contributing all proceeds of RED Shirt sales to different military charities. Its a small thing. Sometimes the small things make a big difference.
NEVER FORGET…… Don’t just remember today. Remember ALL YEAR long. It’s okay for us to ‘move on’ as a nation. It’s healthy in fact. As we move on, let’s not forget that so many families were affected by this attack……