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11 September 2009

We will NEVER forget

The following is a personal account from a good friend of ours. He and Rich were stationed together at this time in Savannah, GA.
A personal account of 9/11. Please read and feel free to distribut if you desire.

Today at 3:15am
**The following is a message I sent to all my employees at work today. I work with the Department of Defense, and all of my employees are uniformed active duty service members who had just received a message reminding them of the 9/11 commemoration ceremony for the installation the next morning:** Please take the time to prioritize this activity tomorrow morning. 9/11 should continuously be the ultimate reminder of why we do what we do and why you wear your nation’s uniform. 9/11 represented the culmination of several decades of growing aggression and existential threat to the United States by the forces of radical Islam.
I remember I was working the Staff Duty desk at the 224th Military Intelligence Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia the morning of 9/11 2001. We heard a rumor that an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center; everyone assumed that it was some idiot pilot of a little Cessna private plane or something, but it sounded like interesting news, so we wheeled out the TV into the Battalion headquarters foyer and turned on CNN. The damage looked horrible, and it was obvious it wasn’t a little plane. Everyone was a little stunned at what would have to go wrong for this to happen, and what a freak misfortune it must have been. And then I saw on live TV as a Boeing 737 plowed into the second tower and changed the world as I knew it. It felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. As soon as I caught my breath, I ran and informed the battalion commander and the sergeant major, and the crowd began to gather. I called my wife at home and told her to turn on the News, because the world had changed forever. Throughout that morning, as the reports kept coming in, as another plane destroyed much of the pentagon, and another aircraft went missing and eventually was found destroyed in a field in Pennsylvania, there was a growing, palpable rage building in the foyer. Career soldiers that hadn’t seen combat since 1991, if ever, became grim-faced and quiet as the implications of what we were seeing became clear. Initial enlistees slowly came to realize that the organization they had joined in order to get money for college or to launch other careers or to get health insurance was about to ask much more of them than they thought would be required. Al-Qaeda issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, and Afghanistan’s Taliban government issued a panicked “condemnation” of the attacks and urged the United States to seek justice through the International Court of Justice in the Hague. When the soldiers in the room heard that, the tension broke, pushed us over the top, and to a man we all started laughing. We knew what was coming. (My battalion ended up spending 22 of the next 29 months deployed in the Middle East) Then there was a “thud” in my gut and in my heart as I watched the towers fall on live TV, crushing and entombing untold numbers of emergency responders and other civilians. That afternoon, two FBI agents came into the HQ and said they heard that we had Arabic linguists in the battalion. I said I was, and I spent the remainder of that afternoon with the FBI listening to wire taps. At the end of the day, death toll estimates were over 10,000 and all air traffic within, into, or out of the US was frozen, and the financial sector of our economy had ground to a halt. When the dust settled, nearly 3,000 Americans were dead, along with hundred of citizens of many of our allies, and 19 terrorists. The death toll was higher than the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. And unlike Pearl Harbor, almost all of the casualties were civilians. Radical and even supposedly moderate Islamic factions around the world took to the streets to dance, cheer, and gloat, and Al-Qaeda vowed more and greater attacks, and that from then on no American would ever feel safe again.
The director of our agency posted a banner in the headquarters building in Washington that said “Today is September 12, 2001”. It’s still there today. Because for the men and women of our organizations every day must always be September 12, 2001. That was the day we were forced to finally recognize and face the truth about what had been the greatest threat to our civilization since 1979. Not the Soviet Union, not China—it was the radical and destructive fringe of Islam that viewed the destruction of Western Civilization to be their ticket to heaven. That was the day when we knew how vulnerable we were, how capable and ubiquitous our enemies were, and how na├»ve we had been. In spite of all the evidence throughout the 80s and 90s, all the terrorist attacks, all the acts of war against our interests, it wasn’t until 9/12/01 that as a society we knew and acknowledged who the bad guys really were.
So we shredded the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had been housing and funding Al-Qaeda and refused to turn them over to us. We’ve been there ever since and are currently in the process of doubling our troop presence there. In a controversial move that many have questioned the wisdom and motivations of, we also shredded Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, eventually capturing and seeing to the trial and execution of that horrific dictator. In retrospect any connection between Hussein and the 9/11 attacks is extremely dubious, and additional justifications and excuses have been grasped at. There have been huge administrative and strategic mistakes in handling and proceeding with the rebuilding of these two nations, problems with accountability, fraud, and waste, and questionable decisions across the board, but the force for good that our troops have been in these two nations is profound and unquestionable for those who have actually been there.
Personal politics and viewpoints have led many to feel war in Iraq and even Afghanistan is unjust and a stain on the United States’ honor and integrity. Many argue that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and initially that’s probably true. Many feel that having our warriors over there, especially in Iraq, has nothing to do with the “War on Terror”. These might be valid viewpoints, except for the fact that the terrorists do not agree. For the last 6 years, most of their effort, time, resources, and personnel have been fixed on harming our interests in Iraq. In the meantime, there have been zero attacks on Americans in the US, despite Al-Qaeda’s promise to keep the attacks coming and make all Americans everywhere continuously fearful for their lives. Americans feel safe because of the stunning successes of the military and the intelligence community. Instead of the soft, vulnerable, civilian targets in America’s malls, commercial centers, amusement parks, transportation infrastructure, or industries, the terrorists have been grinding themselves up against the hardened, armed, and armored Warrior Class of our country. And we’ve been all too happy to grind them up. It has come at a terrible cost in lives and blood of our brethren in uniform, but Americans have been kept safe. So even if the initial connection between 9/11 and Iraq was questionable or non-existent, once we were there, our operations in Iraq came to have EVERYTHING to do with combating the loathsome forces that brought about 9/11 and are eager to do so again.
So please keep in mind that the success of the missions we accomplish every day and the true value of our work is found in the safety and security of the American people whom we serve. And this has EVERYTHING to do with the attacks our nation suffered on 9/11/01. At his inauguration in January, our President said “Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” We who man the walls in this war cannot ever forget that today is 9/12/01. Everyday. It must always be so. So attend our installation’s ceremony tomorrow morning, and think on the 5,135 of our brothers in arms that have fallen since 9/11; think on the 3,000 of our citizens that were slaughtered on 9/11; think on the uncounted millions that we protect from harm, fear, and the horrors of war every day. It is so easy to lose perspective in the safety, comfort, and prosperity of our society, with a war-weary population and a markedly anti-war mass media continually lulling us into a sense of security. So many of our countrymen have forgotten the fear and apprehension of the weeks following 9/11. They only see the unpleasantness of war and no longer see the relevance of our operations. They use the privilege of ideologically tinted retrospective to condemn decisions made and persecute those who mad them. 9/11’s association with an increasingly unpopular war leads many to downgrade its significance or even argue it should not be commemorated. Ironically, the forgetting of fear and apprehension is a mark of how successful you have been. Please make 9/11 and the ongoing conflict it represents a priority in your mind, your heart, and your life. Because YOU are the Warrior Class. If you don’t remember, who will?
Trent Davidson


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