As my future in the military comes into view, it will always be shaped by Sept. 11, 2001, nine years ago, in Winfield, W.V.
On Sept. 11, I went to fourth grade as usual, thinking the day would just be another blur in my 8-year-old life, but this monumental day in American history would forever change my outlook. Along with many teachers across the country, my fourth-grade teacher in Winfield turned down the volume of the class television set and quietly shifted the set away from the students’ viewing. I continued to catch glimpses of the television and listened to the broadcast while appearing to do my work. I saw the crumbling towers and heaps of rubble. I heard the screams.
No one knows that as I watched the TV broadcasts with bewilderment that day, or that in the months following, that I decided I would join the military or become a federal employee. I felt I must do my part in stopping a future national disaster from occurring again. Seeing the National Guard and other American soldiers sent to New York City and to the Middle East helped to firmly establish in my mind my desire to join the military.
I saw what our soldiers did as brave and honorable, fighting the people who dared to harm United States citizens and who thought America would be too afraid and shocked to act afterward. The desire to defend my country, even if it meant fighting on the frontlines and dying for my country, is an aspiration I’ve largely kept private. This is the first time I’ve expressed publicly — and the first time family and friends will have heard — my reason for my wanting to join the military.
While at Cary High School in North Carolina, I took the first step toward my duty by joining NJROTC in my sophomore year and achieving the rank of Cadet Petty Officer First Class. It brought me that much closer to my military aspirations. I owe a lot to Col. Thomas Finnerty, USMC Retired, and the top NJROTC unit in Area Six. Although military life is much different from simply going to class five days a week, wearing a uniform and being inspected every Thursday, my two years as a NJROTC cadet gave me a first hand glimpse into military life and operations.
In mid August of this year, I moved to Edmond, Okla., from Cary, N.C., for a change of environment and to start my life while I wait for government and military news. I started the process of joining the United States Navy back in May, but I have hit some roadblocks. I’ve taken both the ASVAB test and the medical exam, but I now wait for a waiver to be approved. Once it is approved, I will go in to the Oklahoma City MEPS facility to speak with a Navy job counselor and receive my job.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, I have had recurring nightmares. At my age when the attacks occurred, these nightmares would be typical and understandable. I had just witnessed, without much explanation, an attack thought to be impossible. Knowing that terrorists had attacked the American soil, I dreamed that terrorists could just climb through my window at night and murder me in my sleep. To this day, I do not know if this nightmare could truly become reality.
I recently read an article about Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida who plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11. I find this very dangerous to the safety of the United States and American soldiers based in the Middle East. Upon reading it, this man filled me with anger. Jones is not thinking of the consequences that his act of hate could bestow upon our nation! I believe that this demonstration could cause another terrorist attack on United States soil, just what I want to help prevent from happening.
Every year on Sept. 11, Cary High’s broadcasting class would show a special memorial about the attacks, and the principal of Cary High would ask the school to hold a moment of silence. These two ways kept those lost in our hearts and always brought back memories of sitting in my fourth grade classroom catching glimpses of the national broadcast of those tragic attacks.
After Sept. 11, I began to ask myself the question, why would anyone hate America? It is my belief, that the United States must drastically change much of its culture in order to put itself in a better light. It is no wonder so many cultures hate this country. We pay the entertainers millions, while paying those in the medical, education, and safety departments barely anything. The American culture focuses too much of its attention on appearance, fashion, and entertainment when it should be focused on values, morals, and bettering the country. I also believe the United States puts too much focus on international problems rather than focusing on domestic issues.