Although it has been 13 years, most Americans can clearly recall where they were when they learned of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
For most, it’s a sad memory of a day filled with shock, disbelief and heartbreak as we watched our nation come under attack in an unprecedented act of cowardice.
Our eyes were glued to televisions across the United States and worldwide as the towers fell, a fully loaded passenger airliner bombarded the Pentagon, and another flight — presumably headed for Washington, D.C. — plummeted into a field in rural Pennsylvania.
In the days and months to follow, our emotions would evolve from shock and despair to an impressive display of patriotism and well-placed anger. It soon became apparent the United States would be forced to take this fight to the jihadist militias lest more innocent American civilians be in danger of attack. It was at this point which the United States military underwent a change that had not been felt in decades. We were at war.
It’s easy for people to dehumanize the idea of waging war. Perhaps some may envision the President ordering his generals to maneuver divisions and warships to strategic locations. Some may picture supersonic aircraft, and stealth bombers conducting missions with surgical precision. While these images harbor some degree of accuracy, it’s important we recognize the individuals involved in these operations.
Every military unit is comprised of service members who proudly wear their branch’s uniform, and behind every uniform are people who took an oath and volunteered to lay their life on the line in defense of their country – in defense of you. They knew this commitment meant that they would surely be asked to leave their families to travel around the world, and be placed in harm’s way. They made this selfless decision with the hope their sacrifice would mean the American people would be able to peacefully carry on with their lives without fear of random acts of terrorism.
With the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom drawing down, our troops are beginning to return home in growing numbers. Although the fight is not over, we are now able to welcome many of our troops home as veterans of our armed forces. As they come home, we should recognize their sacrifices and thank them for their commitment to our collective well-being.
As we reflect on Sept. 11, let’s not give our enemies the satisfaction of dwelling on the tremendous loss of life. Instead, we should honor the brave men and women who witnessed this attack and responded with courage and gave everything for us. We need to welcome them home, and show our deepest gratitude as they reintegrate back into the communities they risked so much to protect.
To the veterans who have served after 9/11, and to the families at home who stood by their sides: Thank you for your service.
Jason Lewis is with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.