I was standing guard duty. My company was already on deployment, a train-up for some soldiers getting ready to ship out to Kosovo. My relief was late, and frankly, I was pissed, because chow was going to close soon.
When he came, he was all flustered, not making sense. Finally, he just shook his head and told me to get over to the chow hall asap. Told me I'd find out there.
I walked into the tent, and into the complete suspension of reality as I knew it. People were openly weeping, or looking stoic...but not one of them looked unaffected. I hurried to the line to see if I could scrounge some breakfast.
One of the cooks, I don't remember his name, but can clearly recall the beautiful line of his chocolate skinned face,and that they collectively called themselves the Zoo Crew, turned ravaged eyes on me.
"We're under attack. They blew up the towers."
I had no idea what he was talking about.
"What? What towers?"
Within minutes, chow forgotten, I was back in my commanders tent, my platoon's command post.
He had scrounged a t.v. from somewhere, and I watched as the second tower fell. The female E-5 in my unit was from NYC. She had family there. The sergeant in charge of the laundry was from NYC. His brother, or nephew--someone from his family, worked in one of the towers.
A dark pall lay over the camp. Soldiers went about their assigned tasks, because, well that's what you do when you're a soldier. You just keep going. So the people back home could be safe, and never have to think about what you did, or worry about their safety.
And those utter bastards brought the fight to our soil.
Not cleanly, not honorably.
That wasn't a military installation they attacked.
The fuckers went after our heart.
They struck out at civilians.
Every soldier on the post knew what that meant, and I honestly can't recall a single one who didn't welcome it on that day.
We were going to war, and we were going to teach the dishonorable bastards to never bring the fight to our soil again. No matter how long it took, no matter the cost, they would learn to leave the heart of our nation alone, or we'd die trying to teach them that lesson.
We did die. Lots of us. Or we came back forever changed. But we stood up and said what American soldiers will always say to the people of this nation.
"Don't you worry. I've got your six."
We will always be ready to protect and defend. That's what soldiers do.