Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Walking down the passage way to my office, one of the men called out, "Colonel, a plane flew into a building in New York." Looking into the office, they were gathered around a television. Mere seconds after I started watching, the second aircraft flew into the second tower. My spontaneous comment was, "Terrorists."
A rapidly ending 30 year career, including a stint working in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, had exposed me to anti-terrorism and counterterrorism. This undoubtedly contributed to this immediate assessment. While our world changed irrevocably on 11 September, 2011, one immutable fact remained intact. Our nation's Marines, the "first to fight," would be ready to answer the call of duty.
Over the next several hours, the blur of incoming calls included one from my daughter, who was married three days earlier on 8 September. Calling from her honeymoon, she asked when I would be deploying. The daughter of a Marine, she knew the attack on America meant Marines would be deploying. Alas, I would not be one of those Marines. The calendar indicated my time on active duty was coming to an end.
The highlight of my retirement ceremony on 9 February, 2002 was serving as the Reviewing Officer for the graduation of new Marines at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. In my office is a picture from that day, showing me returning the salutes of the platoons of newly made Marines, lined up with Marine Corps precision on the "grinder," as the parade deck is known. Every time I look at the picture, I wonder how many of those young men, each who enlisted after the attacks on 9/11, eventually made the ultimate sacrifice in serving his country and Corps.
I also feel a sense of guilt. Guilt because I long to do my duty, to serve alongside my fellow Marines, as they seek out and destroy the enemies of our nation and way of life. While our world changed forever, my sense of duty did not. So I now serve in a non-profit that assists military families.
Their needs expanded because of 9/11 and we are here to help those who answer the call to duty.
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)
President, Operation Homefront - Southern California