Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq—There is probably not an adult who does not remember the intricate details at the moment he or she found out that America had been attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Life changed or decisions were altered for some of the men and women of Task Force Marne after that date, known as 9/11.
Sgt. Joseph Hudson, an information systems noncommissioned officer for the TF Marne G-6 Information Assurance office, was serving in the U.S. Navy at the time of the attacks.
“On Sept. 11, I was (serving in the U.S. Navy) at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan,” said Sgt. Hudson, a Douglas, Wyo., native. “I was standing watch when the planes hit the World Trade Center Twin towers, and was back working in the communications shop when the first tower fell.”
Other soldiers were in school, some in college and others still in high school.
“I was going to school in France at the time; I was in the ninth grade,” explained Greenville, S.C. native, 1st Lt. Gerald Jones, the executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Operations Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. “I was walking home from school. My dad was standing on our balcony as I walked up, and (he) told me that planes had hit the World Trade Center. I didn’t believe him at first; it didn’t seem plausible. It was not until I got into the apartment and saw the news that it really hit me.”
For some, the attacks solidified their commitment to their country, to become a soldier or to continue their service.
In Sgt. Hudson’s case, the attacks and the conflicts that followed were what led him in the Army, after having already decided to leave the service.
“My ex-wife wanted me to get out and I had already made the decision to do so,” said Sgt. Hudson. “Following the invasion of Iraq, I knew that I wanted to be there, on the ground, in the fight.”
Sgt. Hudson said that he knew if he went back into the Navy, he would be stationed on a ship somewhere not in Iraq, so he joined the Army.
Some soldiers had not yet enlisted when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked and the passengers of Flight 93 thwarted plans to fly the plane they were on into another target. Spec. William Murray, a civil affairs specialist with TF Marne G-9, was attending college in Hawaii, and was walking to class when the planes hit the towers.
“I didn't join the military for six years (after the attacks),” said Spc. Murray. “I knew that I wanted to, right then and there, but I also wanted to make sure I was clear about my decision. It was always in the back of my mind. We (were) a nation at war with terror. I wanted to do my part, that's why I joined the military.”
Maj. Brian Smith, a logistics planner for the TF Marne G-4, was watching the news in a coffee shop with fellow classmates before his graduation from the Captains Career Course at Fort Eustis, Va., when the planes hit the towers.
“It was a stunned silence in the room,” said Maj. Smith, a native of St. Louis, Mo. “In a room designed to seat 25 or 30 people there were more than 75, and other than a few quiet sobs, it was just silence.”
In remembrance of the 2,993 people killed in the attacks, President George W. Bush proclaimed that Sept. 11 be known as Patriot Day on Sept. 4, 2002. As part of this proclamation, he directed that all American flags be flown at half-staff both home and abroad, and that a moment of silence be observed at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the time at which the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Joining and serving after the 9/11 attacks holds different meanings and purposes for each soldier. Spec. Murray said joining after the attacks has given his service a purpose in addition to just serving his country.
“I have always wanted to be in the Army,” said Spc. Murray, of Haleiwa, Hawaii. “As kids, my cousin and I would play Army men and we promised each other that we would one day join the Army. I was the one who actually kept the promise. For me, having joined after Sept. 11, gives me greater sense of helping continue the American way of life than I think it would have if I had joined before Sept. 11.”