Posted by music4life
written by Carlos Rodriguez
Ten years ago, on Sept 11, 2001, would mark the day that certain events would change the way the rest of the nation and I would look at the world. But for me this story was a little different. You see, I like more than a hundred thousand other Americans was in the military at the time. I was serving with a unit at Fort Benning, GA. I remember that day very clearly. We were out in the field training as most military units do when we got the call to meet at the main tent and get ready to pack up. We didn’t know what to expect and just thought that we were getting out of the field early. As we sat listening as we were told that the World Trade Center had been hit by two planes we could not believe that this had happened. Some of us were in shock, others were in denial and others just had a confused look on their face. For me it did not settle in until I saw the towers go down on the news. At that very moment I knew that our unit was going to deploy to Iraq.
In March of 2003, part of our unit, including myself deployed to Kuwait. This is where we received our briefing on the situation in Iraq and what we should expect. After a couple of days at Camp Doha, we moved to a base a couple of miles south of Iraq, while we waited for all of our vehicles and the rest of our gear to come in overseas. As we waited, we would sit and talk about what was to come and how we should react. What we didn’t understand that no matter how much training or how much we talked about it, nothing can prepare you for the emotional impact that a war can have on a person.
Less than a month went by and we were ready to head in to Iraq. I will save you the graphic details, but the devastation that I saw was enough to change my frame of mind forever. See not everyone in that country had hatred for us. Most of them were really nice people just trying to survive and making a living just like you and I. A lot of these people were victims of the same terrorism that we had encountered. Some had lost some family members and some had just lost everything. I came across these children one day, the oldest was 10 years old. These poor children were living on the streets with no parents. They had to find a way to survive off of whatever they were blessed with that day, which was not much. This impacted me a whole lot being that I am a father. I wanted to take them home and provide a better living for them. As a matter of fact, that 10 year old boy approached us telling him to take him with us. When we asked, where are your parents and where are your things? He replied; “I don’t have anything, I am ready to go right now”. What do you do when there is a child needed help and you are not allowed to do anything? Everything in me wanted to tell that child to jump in with us, but I knew I couldn’t. Even if I could, what would I tell the other kids? So I gave him some of my food and gave him my water bottle. As we drove off, I watched as the kids waved at us and that 10 year old held on to that water bottle and food like it was gold.
I saw and did a lot of things as result of the attacks on 9/11, but I also learned a lot. I learned that Americans consume themselves with so much on an everyday basis and it’s only in time of devastation to ourselves that we come to together. Americans learned that our service men and women, along with emergency services (police, firefighters, paramedics, etc..) will do their job with no questions and no request. It is our job to keep you safe while you sleep. We signed up for that. So why are we taken for granted? Why are we an afterthought when the smoke clears? Do you ever see a service man or woman on the street and thank them for what they do for you? Do you ever take time and thank a police officer, firefighter or paramedic? These attacks on 9/11 and since have thought a lot of people appreciation for the service that we provide and the sacrifices that we make. Since then, I have had more than the usual amount of people thank me for my service and I think to myself how sad that it had to come to this, but I do appreciate how Americans have realized how important we are to them.
Since I have been back I have experienced a whole lot of different things. Some emotional, some physical and others spiritual, but it was the emotional transition from military life after war to civilian life that impacted me the most. I think that 2004 – 2008, were some of the worst years I went through emotionally. It has taken a lot to get back to a place where I can deal with people on a regular basis. A battle that many veterans of not just this war, but every war have gone through and are still going through on a daily basis. This battle is within us, it is a mental battle for understanding and acceptance. Many of us seek therapy or others means of coping to include drugs, alcohol or worse. Some even choose death over dealing with the emotional trauma. Luckily, there are a lot of programs that have been into place by the Veterans Administration to help those service men and women, but it is not enough. There should be more effort put in by the government to make sure that we are taken care of and are able to deal with that trauma. Us Veterans make many sacrifices both mental and physical so we may serve our country and all we ask in return is that we be taken care of and remembered. This applies to not just Veterans, but our emergency service providers who go through trauma as result of their job.
Let’s not forget those who have given so much for our freedom and safety. Those firefighters up late putting out that 4 alarm fire, those paramedics making sure you make it to the hospital alive, those police officers patrolling the streets making sure that you are safe and those Armed Forces members who have given so much of themselves to keep this country free and safe. When you see them on the street, take some time out of your day and thank them for the services that they do. Believe me, you will make our day. We should take what happened on 9/11, learn from them and make positive changes in our lives. Only by doing this will we honor the deaths of all the men and women who passed on this tragic day.