In March 1999, after my promotion to Captain, my husband and I decided to embark on a new adventure with our daughter who was 4 and son who was 9 months old, and I applied to go from an Army Reservist to an Active Duty Soldier. On 8 September 2001, I received orders for Active Duty in an Active Guard/Reserve status and was to report to 99th Regional Support Command in Oakdale, Pennsylvania on 10 October 2001. This was an exciting time for us as we planned and began the chaotic preparation for our first military move.
I had just called my mother to wish her a Happy Birthday and after dropping my daughter off at school, I was driving to my civilian job as a Graphic Designer when, on the car radio, I heard the tragic news that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. With son in tow, I arrived at work and they all were gathered around the television. I sat and held my son tightly and sobbed with my co-workers as the devastation unfolded. I remember the fear that overcame me as I called my husband and my daughter’s daycare to make sure they were safe. The phone calls were endless to family and friends.
As the next few days unfolded and security measures heightened, I remember the logistical dilemmas and how I was feeling that the weight of our first military move and adventure had just changed forever. I remember that airports and military installations were filled with extra security as I traveled to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for training. There was so much to do to prepare for our move, yet our nation was under attack and I was miles away from my family. But duty calls. With the security issues and the uncertainty whether flying was “unsafe”, I chose to drive to both my training and to Oakdale, Pennsylvania while my husband stayed with the children in South Dakota and took care of selling the house and packing for the movers. On my first day of active duty, I remember the urgency to ensure Soldiers were ready to deploy and the high OPTEMPO, with talk of war and how to protect our nation from any terrorist threats that may still be coming.
My orders read “Active Duty Commitment: 3 years.” Who would have thought that 17 years later that I would still be serving this great nation and supporting those still fighting for peace, security and stability against terrorism and other adversaries? There is not a day that goes by that I don’t remember September 2001 and how it impacted my life forever. NEVER FORGET.
-Lieutenant Colonel Rhonda McCulley, US Army Reserve