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One of the noteworthy things about having an ALL-VOLUNTEER military is that each and every one of them have a story, a reason for wanting to be part of the US Military. Some reasons are ordinary – a job, a paycheck, a ticket to travel, or a way to pay for college. Most reasons, to my experience, are extraordinary! Whether it is a relative the young adult wishes to emulate, or a hero to follow, or the classic – to serve my country, know that each one understands the call. Some understand better than others, but they all understand. This is why they are heroes! These are just a sampling of the many. I hope their stories inspire you to find an outlet to SERVE!
SSgt. Albert E Hoffman
This won’t be what you asked for but I can’t help myself. On 9/11/01 I found myself wishing I was still young enough to put my uniform back on! But obviously, at 54 years old, that was not a reality.
I firmly believe in the adage “once a soldier, always a soldier!” To think that our country was viciously attacked and I was helpless to do anything about it was frustrating for me.
Like most other Americans, I have friends who are, and have been, deployed more than once trying to root out terrorists. I feel so helpless and wish I could do something besides my moral support and prayers for ALL our men and women in harm’s way!
Maj. Leila R. von Kreitor
Active Duty, Air Force
Clinical Nurse, Critical Care
Served in Iraq and Afghanistan
It was the day anybody could only wish never came – Sept. 11, 2001. I remember giving medication to a patient that morning when a coworker asked me to come to the window and look at a building about 20 miles away on fire. I went back to work after seeing it. Then minutes later, I was informed that something hit the other building. Once again, I came to the window and looking at the building and television simultaneously I began to realize that they were the twin towers – the World Trade Center had been attacked. That was a horrible sight.
I remember being the only passenger on the bus close to midnight that same day after helping out at a public school turned into a triage center. There was but only a firefighter who came for a brea thing treatment said they couldn’t get to Ground Zero because of falling rubble. This gave me a mixed emotion, sad because of this tragedy and at the same time glad that nobody else came at the center — not being fully aware of the magnitude of what was going on outside. I felt so helpless and compelled to do something but not sure what.
Less than a month after this tragedy, I went to a job fair in New York City where I saw service members in their servcie dress uniform. Then I realized that this was the answer to the urge of wanting to do something. I submitted my resume to the Air Force, Army, and the Navy but it was the phone call four days later from the Air Force recruiter that started my military career in 2002. Several years passed by before I first deployed to Bagram AF, Afghanistan in 2009, and only then did I feel the true sense of accomplishment.
This is my second deployment where I will be spending the 9/11 commemoration once again and there is no other place I rather be than in the company of those who are serving our great nation.
Spc. Joel Bottem
Veteran, Army National Guard
Served in Iraq
I took the attacks very personal for many reasons: As a proud American, proud Army Veteran, and proud Boeing aircraft machinist. One year later I was laid off because of the downturn in aviation travel – a direct result of 9/11.
It took me another 18 months to convince my wife to let me join the Army National Guard. We had 2 small children, so it was a very hard decision for her. Being prior service, all I needed was to pass the physical and sign a contract. I was more than ready.
I joined the 951st Maintenance Company at Camp Murray, Washington as a 63-series mechanic. We worked on everything from wheeled to tracked vehicles. In January 2005 we were activated, and by April we were in Baghdad, Iraq for a 12 month tour. We were stationed at Camp Victory where a majority of our unit was tasked to Guard Duty and Base Security, and a very small number of our members did actual vehicle maintenance.
Even performing guard duty, way outside of our MOS’s, I am still glad I served, as are nearly all the patriots I served with.
I am now again out of the service, and I am back at Boeing, working on military programs where I have a very special connection to the product.
Spc. Stephanie Schneider
National Guard, Army National Guard
I was 10 years old when 9/11 happened. I was in 6th grade at the time and the day was weird to begin with. My math class was located near the main entrance of our middle school and parents kept coming in to pick up their children. We though naively, ‘Oh wow, people must have a lot of doctors appointments today!’
I overheard teachers talking about airplanes crashing and nobody knew anything. It was our last class when we were told. I was in Mr. Valentine’s Science Class, sitting in the front row about four seats in when our principal made the fatal announcement. Stop what you’re doing. Drop your books, drop what you’re doing right now. This morning our nation was attacked. The World Trade Center buildings in New York City, the Pentagon in DC, and Pennsylvania were struck by airplanes due to terrorism. This is a very scary time for our nation.
With that being said, counselors will be on hand after school and throughout the night and all churches will be open. I didn’t get it, what is terrorism?
That day I went to a friend’s house after school to do homework. We flicked on the television and every channel displayed what happened. The buildings on fire, clouds of smoke billowing throughout the city, people running and crying. Was this all real? We turned to Nickelodeon, and the news was even playing on there. It looked like a movie. Why would people do this to us? My friends dad came home and watched the news with us and that’s when it showed people from another country burning the American Flag. I was mad and so upset, I had to hold back my tears until I got home.
I wrote in my diary on 9/11: Our country will never be the same again. We will be going to war, I just know it. And so will I.
Never would I have thought that my 11-year-old self would write such a thing. When I turned 16 and I was in high school, I had a computer teacher who really impacted my life. He was prior service in the Army and re-enlisted into the NY Air National Guard. I thought it was so amazing the things he got to do and places he got to go. I found my calling!
I tossed this idea to my parents and they knew it was going to happen eventually. So over a year later when I was 17 and going into my senior year of high school, I talked to Air National Guard recruiters with my mom. I had all of the information and wanted to think about it longer until my cousin told me the Army National Guard would be better suited for me. At the time he was a Master Sergeant so clearly, he knew a lot.
That September 2007 I got in contact with an Army National Guard recruiter and took the ASVAB. I ended up getting a high enough score to land my MOS as a 25B Information Technology Specialist. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to enlist! I enlisted a week before my 18th birthday, which meant more paperwork for my parents, but I seriously couldn’t wait. I was told I would be going to Basic Training two weeks after high school graduation and I couldn’t have been more excited for my future.
Throughout all my TRADOC training I learned more life skills and met the most amazing people. I loved it. All of that was done in March 2009 and here I am less than two years later getting ready to deploy. I was told in April that I am getting switched over to the unit that is deploying and that I would no longer be with the unit I have been with for the past 3 1/2 years until I return from Afghanistan.
Within the next few months I will be getting ready for all of the training before we deploy and I am looking forward to it. The most striking thing I have seen throughout my almost four years of service are the NCOs who are willing to do anything for their soldiers. I have seriously been impacted by their gracious acts and will never take them for granted. It’s amazing to have and know people who are willing to go out of their way for you.
I’m living my dream though. If I could meet my 11-year-old self and say, ‘Ten years from now, you’re going to Afghanistan,’ I think I would have been very excited. I can’t wait to add this experience to my career and make it another memorable year in the NY Army National Guard.
Afghanistan, here I come!
Lt. Col. Fred Wellman
Served in Iraq
I did 13 years and got out in 2000 to join the Reserves and settled in Atlanta.
On 9/11 I was working from home on my campaign for mayor of Peachtree City, Ga., and got called by my unit that day to be mobilized on AT orders and later on active duty.
After six months of mobilization I decided to rejoin the regular Army and headed to the 101st as an aviation officer. While in Iraq I did a bunch of interviews with various news networks and papers, so General Petraeus asked me to become division PAO, and from there another career was born.
Went back to Iraq two more times and am now am retired in DC with my own PR consulting firm.
9/11 changed the entire direction of my life.