On September 11th, 2001, I was a Captain of Armor in the Illinois National Guard’s 66th Brigade. I served as a traditional National Guard soldier, drilling part-time as I’d done for 8 years during college and after active duty. After 12 years in the U.S. Army, I’d considered strongly the idea of separating from service. After that terrible day, there was no way I would leave before serving until retirement or on a deployment that could bring justice to the terrorists who hurt our American family.
At 7:45 local St. Louis time, I heard of the first plane crashing into the North Tower and it took a little less than a minute to imagine the worst. By the time I made it to the gas station, where they played the news each morning, the second plane had just hit the South Tower. The attendant said, “That’s weird”. I responded, “No, that’s war”.
Continuing my drive to work, my heart sank as my neighbors in cars around me were bawling. I was very angry and praying for those workers in the towers. That day at work we did nothing but watch the news. By noon, we went home. I watched the news all that day with my family. Around dinner, I called my Grandmother to ask her what would my grandfather have done today. On December 8th, 1941 he made his way to the recruiter and was made a Coast Guard Medic soon after. It was 6 years before he returned home for good. Grandma told me to be careful but she understood my desire to re-enter active duty that day.
I called a friend of mine in the Armor branch who managed the assignments of young Captains. He told me to stand fast, that we in the National Guard would be going soon enough. I followed his advice and deployed for the first of two times 4 months later. A horrible and fateful day that should have never happened!
– Mark C. Lear, Major, US Army (Retired)