I didn’t go to Basic Combat Training until July 2001, thanks to the delayed entry program. So it was at the end of Basic Combat Training that my platoon was standing in line at parade rest waiting to get our class A and B uniforms issued that we heard on the radio that “a plane has just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”
That afternoon the battalion played taps and we saluted the fallen. Later that evening we quietly watched video footage of the event in our barracks on the TV set we otherwise never turned on.
It wasn’t until after Thanksgiving weekend in 2002 that I finally made it to Afghanistan with the job of winning hearts and minds. I deployed three times, totaling about 15 months, drove 90km once or twice a week, never had to fire my weapon, and physically only suffered from one pretty bad week of dysentery (though never missing a day of work).
I loved my direct interactions with Afghans, and I’d love to go back sans uniform. I was honorably discharged in July, 2005. I never went to Iraq, and frankly, I’m glad.