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I had just arrived with my platoon to Babenhausen, Germany. We’d driven ninety minutes down the autobahn from Friedberg in order to train with our SAWs and 240s.
My phone rang and I answered, expecting it to be my commander or another LT passing on some info about the day’s activities or chow. It was my mom. She was hysterical.
“They just hit the tower! They think it might have been terrorists but they’re not sure. They crashed a whole plane into it.”
After some brief discussion, I figured out what had happened and was trying to calm her down when she started screaming and then sobbing. The second plane had hit and the buildings fell.
My life, nor that of any American, would ever be the same.
The day after those attacks, President Bush gave an amazing speech. The line that most of us in the military held onto was his solemn oath that “We will not tire. We will not falter. We will not fail.”
For a brief period of time, there was unity in our country unlike anything any of us had ever seen, but then much of the rest of the nation moved on, lost in the maelstrom of political punditry, the WMD controversy, and ultimately their everyday mundane lives.
Yet, the 0.45%, our nation’s military, did not forget. They walked patrols, braved ambushes, hit IEDs, and felt incoming mortar rounds. They crunched data, moved satellites, monitored communications, intercepted calls, and interrogated prisoners. They patched wounds, watched their brethren die on unknown battlefields, and returned with wounds of their own. But they never forgot, never complained, and never asked for anything but the tools to accomplish their mission. They simply soldiered on.
On May 1st, 2011, members of Army and Navy Special Operations crossed the border into Pakistan and tracked down the man that murdered nearly 3,000 innocent civilians. To no one’s surprise, he hid from them until the last possible moment, putting women and children in harm's way. Our men fired without hesitation. Our mortal enemy – the murderer of our people – was dead.
The critics in our society are quick to point out there will be other leaders – that it doesn’t matter. Easy for them to say.
Nate, Stephen, Ralph, Chris, Dennis, Benny, Joe, Paul, and Bill. All good friends. All lost.
It matters to me.
And if the next Osama springs up?
Well…then the boys will get him too.
We did not fail.
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