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9/11: Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Aired 9/7/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

KPBS Midday Edition wants to hear from San Diego's community and its military families about their 9/11 memory.

An American flag that weathered the attack on the World Trade Center.
Enlarge this image

Above: An American flag that weathered the attack on the World Trade Center.

Military personnel and their families have been under stress since 9-11. Multiple deployments, hard economic times, to say nothing of the constant threat of combat injury and casualties. And yet, everyone who's signed up for service since the 9/11 attacks has known they are potentially facing combat duty, in fact -many have signed up specifically to defend America from another terrorist attack. During this segment, we'd like to hear about people in our community who responded to that call to duty after 9/11. Did you sign up for military service after 9/11? Has your family member been serving in Iraq or Afghanistan? Is your son, or daughter or neighbor one of those who joined the military in response to the 9/11 attacks?

Give us a call with your story during our program today at 1-888-895-5727

GUESTS

Mark Walker, reporter, North County Times

Gerilyn Yoder, San Diego area resident and wife of U.S. Marine

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. As we just heard from retired marine colonel Jay Anderson, military personnel and their families have been under stress since 911. Multiple deployment, hard economic times to say nothing of the constant threat of combat injury and casualties. Yet everyone who signed up for service since the 911 attacks has known they are facing combat duty. Many have signed up specifically to defend America from another terrorist attack. During this segment, we'd like to hear about people in our community who responded to that call to duty after 911. Did you sign up for military service after 911? Has your family member been serving in Iraq or Afghanistan? Is your son or daughter or neighbor one of those who joined the military in response to the 911 attacks? Give us a call with your story, our number is 1-888-895-5727.

I'd liege to welcome my first guest, Mark Walker, military correspondent for the North County Times.

WALKER: Good afternoon, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Can you give us an over view about how military personnel and their families have been affected by the attacks?

WALKER: There's no doubt there's been a lot of stress on those families. We've seen a lot of troops who have had multiple deployments. Some can have as many as 5, 6, 7, or even more if they are special force types. For the families, that's a seven-month to a one year period where their loved one is away, sometimes get to go home for a couple weeks' leave. But other than that, gone. So the others are left behind to deal with all the day to day challenges of life and the stress of worrying about their loved one being away at combat. Talked to a couple of folks in preparation for a story I'm working on that did join the military specifically on 911, a gentleman from Oceanside, he was in the army. Joined the national guard but wanted to deploy rapidly and got that opportunity in Iraq. Was subsequently injured in a roadside bomb explosion and continues to surf from some post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as a result of the effect of that deployment. I talked to a marine staff sergeant yesterday from Iowa, who joined the Marine Corps specifically again because of the 911 attacks. Joined two days later. He's had three combat deployments, is training for a fourth to Afghanistan this year and he's excited and ready to go.

CAVANAUGH: Now you I believe Marx were embedded with troops in Afghanistan on a deployment. Did any of the men or women tell you why they joined up? What was the morale like?

WALKER: The morale when you get in theatre is generally pretty high. Most of those folks are -- you got to remember it's an all volunteer service. People join the military because they want to be in the military and service. So morale I don't think has ever been really much of a question. Morale has always been high. They believe they are there keeping their loved ones safe from another 911.

CAVANAUGH: Gerilyn Yoder is joining us on the phone now. Her husband is in the Navy. And welcome.

YODER: Thank you. Good afternoon.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for doing this.

YODER: No problem. My pleasure.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I understand that your life as a Navy wife took a very carry direction to September†11th, 2001. Can you tell us about that?

YODER: Well, at the time, I was four months pregnant with my twin boys. And the day prior to 911, my husband was scheduled for a routine under way that the Navy does, training cycles and such. And then when 911 hit, I woke up that morning to prepare myself for school, eating breakfast, watching the news, and when I stopped, are the airplanes, you -- when I saw the airplanes crashing into the twin towers and all of the news media, I was in awe. I didn't know what to say. I was literally speechless in my living room. I was afraid that my husband was not going to be home for the birth of our first children. I thought they was gonna basically have to go through this pregnancy by myself. My husband was already gone. It was supposed to only be a couple of days, very standard exercise. But all communication went down. All e-mails went down many, many, many shifts that were -- -- ships that were in ports were told to get under way that day. And I had no idea when I was going to hear or see my husband again. It was very, very overwhelming. And kind of scary.

CAVANAUGH: When did you hear from him again?

YODER: It took a couple of weeks, then the e-mails were able to start coming through. But it was, you know, a good, 2, 2 and a half, almost three weeks before any communication was authorized and up and running again. Mostly for their safety. So a lot of times, you know, our units and commands will do that, shut down communications so that way nobody has an opportunity to know where they are and what they're doing.

CAVANAUGH: I want to remind our listeners that we're taking their stories at 1-888-895-5727 if they'd like to join the conversation. So Gerilyn, was your husband home for the birth of your twins?

YODER: He was.

CAVANAUGH: Ah.

YODER: He did make it just in time, thank goodness.

CAVANAUGH: Now, there has been deployment after deployment that a lot of military families have gone through here in San Diego since 911. How have multiple deployments affected your family, I mean your twin boys are now almost ten, right?

YODER: They will be ten next year. They are currently nine. Just started fourth grade last week. My husband is currently deployed at this time. So he has not been here to watch them start fourth grade. He's done multiple deployments because of 911. As they were mentioning earlier, the back to back deployments, only being home for short periods of time and having to deploy again. That's what our family has experienced. It has not been easy, of course. But one of the good things, if you want to say good things, that has happened since 911 is the big push to help our military families. There's been a lot of money put in developing programs, increasing programs that help our military members and our military families. Resources, I'm prior active duty myself, ands ors that I never even heard of or didn't exist when I was active duty are now available to our families and troops. And it's amazing. So if you have the opportunity to get to know other military members, if you have ever Navy or Marine Corps spouses that live in your neighborhood, it's relying on each other, and bouncing resources off of each other, because there's nothing better than that good friend who knows exactly what you're going through.

CAVANAUGH: I'm wonders, after 911, after your husband did return from some of these deployments, have you ever talked about perhaps him leaving the service?

YODER: We have. He did not join because of 911. He's been in the Navy for quite some time. And we are getting upon retirement. We are getting pretty close to retirement. And it is something that we are actually excited about. Excited to celebrate the wonderful things that he's been able to accomplish in his Navy career. But the excitement of actually having him home for once.

CAVANAUGH: Mark Walker, you write for the North County Times, of course, in close proximity to the Camp Pendleton marine base, and the surrounding communities. How have deployments since 911 affected the larger community in North County?

WALKER: I think there's been generally a high degree of support. Oceanside has long been a military town. It's obviously fairly patriotic. The merchants have gotten used to the deployment cycle when thousands of troops are gone. That obviously affects their cash registers. One of the interesting thing is Jerry Lynn's kids are 9 and 10†years old now.

CAVANAUGH: Gerilyn, what are your thoughts as we near this tenth anniversary of 911? Do you have any message for those who are serving the country? What this has really kind of cost your family?

YODER: Well, obviously the message to our troops and family members is thank you. A word that gets said over and over again. But from the bottom of my heart just thank you for what you do to protect our country and to be able to represent us. It's absolutely amazing. It's truly amazing. As the anniversary of 911 approaches and my children are about ready to turn ten at the beginning of the year it's kind of something that I'm really excited about sharing with them. Of course it's a very serious conversation. But again, all they've known their entire life is their father being deployed and being gone over and over and over again. So I feel that they're kind of at the age, and with the celebration happening it's an opportunity for me to explain why dad has to be gone so much. And this is really what happened to our country. I think that they are now of the age to start understanding that so we're really looking forward to watching all of the events on TV that are going to happen this weekend.

WALKER: Gerilyn Yoder, I know that you have to leave us. I want to thank you so much for talking with us today.

YODER: Well, thank you very much for your time.

CAVANAUGH: I want to take a call now. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Liz is calling from San Diego. Upon hi Liz.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi.

CAVANAUGH: How can we help you?

NEW SPEAKER: Well, I just wanted to give you guys the perspective of the young people in the military. My husband, he's a Navy seal, and well, I met him after he had joined. He didn't join because of 911. He joined right before it. But when 911 happened, he was just finishing, and he definitely wanted to go right away but he couldn't at the moment. But for us, one of the main things, and I think that this 911 had a lot to do with it, there's a lot of training that he's having to do, he's at home a lot. And for us, we don't have kids. So that's very good, other than like the previous caller. But one thing I have definitely noticed, I'm sure in many other groups, is that they don't have the time to start a family or to meet people. There's a lot of friends of ours who are single, and they want to have a relationship. But they're only here for a few months and it's not enough time for them to meet someone and then they have to go. That's become a really stressful situation.

CAVANAUGH: That's the flip side of the families that have had to go through long separations is young people in at this time military who aren't here even long enough to meet anybody.

NEW SPEAKER: Exactly, exactly. It's a question we get a lot. It's like, well, I would want to become essentially like we get questions about -- and one of the first question system how did you guys do it? And obviously it was more of a luck situation. We just met at the right moment.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for your call, Liz. Thanks so much.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: I appreciate that insight because we haven't been talking about that. Mark, as we move closer to the anniversary of the attacks of 911, and of course we've been talking about this all week, and what these ten years have done to San Diego and to the country for good or for ill, what are you hearing from the military community?

WALKER: I think the military community is generally tired, I think -- it is described as such, there are a lot of stresses on it, you hear that from the defense secretary all the way down to the woman who just called. We need to remember that we have had, according it a count that we keep, more than 700 locally based troops, mostly marines, or residents of other services from San Diego County who have been killed in the two wars. We're looking at the prospect of keeping several thousand more troops in Iraq. There's no question we're going to have tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan for at least three more years. The Marines have 20,000 troops now, about half of that 20,000 coming from Camp Pendleton or 29 palms or Mira Mar Marine Corps air station combined. And that number is not expected to go down in a substantial way despite the initial drawdown, which is still believed to be mostly support type folks, the ground pounders or the combat troops if you will.

CAVANAUGH: We have Ia caller on the line, Melanie is calling from San Diego. Melanie, we have about 30†seconds for your comment. Can you do it?

NEW SPEAKER: Yes. Thank you for letting me talk. I am the most proud mother that you can imagine. My son went on his father's footsteps, he was in the army for 30†years. And not too much in 911 my son went, but I think it had something to do with that too. He went to Afghanistan when he was 19, 18. And he was there for a year. And I just want to tell you the side of a mother, it is the most horrible pain to know that your son is over there, and not knowing what's going to happen to him. He was there a year. He's okay now. But it's one thing we don't take in mind, these young men over there, they come in like kids, and come out like men.

CAVANAUGH: Melanie, thank you so much for your comments. I am just really out of time. And I'm so glad we got that in because yes, it's very difficult to have anyone over seas in harm's way. And Mark Walker, military correspondent for the North County Times. Thank you so much.

WALKER: Thank you, Maureen.

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