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9/11 Reflections: Alan Rohlfing, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired)

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For me, as for many of us, the morning of September 11, 2001 started off like any other. It was a beautiful day in St. Charles, Missouri. My wife & I had one young son & one on the way. An Army guy, I was a traditional National Guardsman and a small business owner with about 1,000 things going on at any given time.

I was in the process of taking my son to daycare when I first heard news of the attack. As I started the car & turned on the radio, it was the only news on every station. The second plane had already made impact by the time I tuned in. I recall that news reports were relaying some concern over a few other commercial airliners that weren’t communicating with air traffic control, with the talk of scrambling military fighter jets. I prayed that those pilots wouldn’t be placed in the position of having to shoot down a commercial airliner.

I hadn’t left the driveway yet, and I looked in the rearview mirror at my young son, sitting in his car seat. I remember having that sinking feeling that so much of our world had just forever changed. I knew our military world had just changed, too, but I doubt anyone could have predicted how much. As a member of a Field Artillery battalion’s operations staff, there were exercises in the coming training year that I was helping to prepare for, and the artilleryman in me knew we were going to have to ‘adjust fire’ regarding our yearly training plan. I figured that our combat arms unit, part of the Missouri Army National Guard, would deploy…it was just a matter of time.

And deploy we did, just like the rest of the Active and Reserve Components. We deployed more than once, and to various parts of the world. I was already a combat Vet – I deployed with the 1st Infantry Division to Operation Desert Storm a decade earlier, while on active duty – but I didn’t have a young family back then. Sitting in that driveway, looking at my young son & thinking of the one we had on the way, I was worried for their safety & the world they were going to grow up in.

Fast forward to 2017. I hung up the uniform for good last summer, and a bittersweet day it was. I imagine the events of 9/11 – and the subsequent training, unique duty positions, and deployments –  altered what would have been a shorter military career. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve missed years of family time. I’ve lost Brothers & Sisters to combat and to suicide. I’ve forged some incredible friendships and witnessed some awesome things through a multinational lens. These 17 years have come and gone with blinding speed, and it seems like the next time I turn around, it will be the 25th or 50th anniversary of that fateful day. But I know, beyond all doubt, that we will never forget…

-Alan Rohlfing, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired)

9/11 Reflections: Dale Monteer, Senior Chief, US Navy (Retired)

I was on Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington, DC….waiting to turn into the US Naval Observatory. Traffic was heavy, and I was a few minutes late. I heard the announcement on the radio, and 20 minutes later, the USNO was locked down tight and Secret Service had formed a perimeter around the facility, as it was the home of the Vice President of the United States. When I was finally cleared to leave the compound, I marveled at the complete ghost town Washington had become.

I stopped on the parkway to view the Pentagon across the Potomac River, and as it burned, I realized how fragile things can really be. A Metro Police Officer pulled up behind me and ordered me to move along. My commute home, normally an hour and 15 minutes……took 35 minutes. I was very thankful to be home with my kids and know they were safe and sound.

-Dale Monteer, Senior Chief,  US Navy (Retired)

9/11 Reflections: Mark C. Lear, Major, US Army (Retired)

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)

Military Connection: Sept. 11 is Patriot Day: By Joe Silva

Le Torri gemelle del World Trade Center colpite dai due aerei dirottati l''11 settembre 2001.The morning of September 11, 2001 will forever be remembered by a generation of Americans as their defining moment. Just as earlier generations remembered where they were when JFK was assassinated, or when Pearl Harbor was attacked, my generation will remember where we were on the day that al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and crashed, two planes into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 2,977 people.

I am from the West Coast, and I must admit, the attacks didn’t directly involve or affect me the way that it did my countrymen in Manhattan, or in the nation’s capital. But without experiencing the horror firsthand, I sympathized with those who did. My heart was with them, and my prayers were for them– as it was with all Americans.

Like the Japanese had done decades earlier, al-Qaeda had stirred the hornet’s nest and awoken, not a ‘sleeping giant,’ but the spirit of American patriotism.

My generation will remember the attacks of September 11, 2001 as the event that sparked what will be more than thirteen years of war. Millions of Americans would enlist in the United States Military, serve and deploy in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Participation in these wars changed millions of American families forever.

Many people don’t associate the sacrifices, wounds and losses in war to the events of that day, thirteen years ago. But America is the way that it is today because of the events of September 11, 2001.

I would like to use the USS New York (LPD-21) as an example of the change. The USS New York was named for the city that was targeted by al-Qaeda, and was intentionally built using steel salvaged from the World Trade Center, destroyed in the attacks.

The USS New York represents American resiliency and courage to rebuild. Using the destroyed remnants of the World Trade Center, once a crowning achievement of American greatness, the USS New York now rules the seas, as part of the “World’s Finest Navy” and is currently on her second deployment to the Persian Gulf.

Starting in 2002, each September 11th is to be observed as Patriot Day. While not a federal holiday, Patriot Day, by presidential decree, calls for the American flag to be flown at half-staff. The holiday also calls for a moment of silence to be observed at 8:46 EDT to correspond with the time that the first plane struck the World Trade Center.

Military Connection would like to encourage all Americans to further observe Patriot Day by wearing patriot attire, and by sharing with your friends, family and co-workers the story of where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001 and how it has affected your life today.

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Military Connection: Sept. 11 is Patriot Day: By Joe Silva