9/11 Plus Seventeen Years of Fighting

Scott A. Huesing
September 10, 2018 - 3:22 pm

Scott A. Huesing

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12:46 AM.  I was on the phone with my girlfriend, the television chattered slightly in the background. It was already Wednesday, September 12th in Okinawa, Japan. I was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marines on a unit deployment to the Pacific Rim in 2001.

She asked, “Are you watching this? A plane just hit the Trade Center.” The plane struck the first tower at 8:46 AM EDT. We clung to the phone and watched as the tower began to smoke. 17 minutes later another plane crashed into the second tower.

“It’s a terrorist attack!” I said instinctively before she could speak again.

I raced down the hallway of the barracks and woke up the other officers of my battalion, pounding on each door until their heads peeked out – most furious at me for disrupting their sleep as they hurled a verbal barrage of ‘F-Bombs’ at me.

I told them all to get in my room. “Two planes just hit the World Trade Center – it’s a terrorist attack. America is being attacked.”

A dozen of us stood in shock as we continued to watch more death unfold at the Pentagon and an unknown field in Pennsylvania. Most stood in silence. Others ran out of the room to call their families.  We were all warriors, no more than 25-years-old and could instantly feel that these events were going to impact us all.

The hours unfolded throughout that day and we remained glued to the television. We gathered our Marines as all of the U.S. Forces on the island were put on high-alert. Checkpoints and bases were locked down. Marines with machine guns were placed in bunkers around the camps. We had no way of knowing how isolated the attacks were – but everyone was ready to fight.

There were no Marines to race to the aid of the 2,996 people that died that day – or defend the other 6,000 that were injured by the 19 terrorists who had struck a devastating blow to the American people, but we all wished we could have done something. That type of feeling of helplessness for a professional warrior is gut-wrenching and maddening.

Despite what we felt then, the next 17 years during this Long War on Terror would give all of us more than our share of satisfaction to honor those slain in the attacks on 9-11. Like most who serve we all want ‘Our War.’ To prove ourselves worthy of the oath we’ve taken.  It has become a haunting reminder of the maxim, “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

We did.

Through countless deployments – thousands have died and more wounded. Friends and fellow warriors. There were no such things as statistics anymore—they all became people we knew personally. For seventeen years we have continued to fight and kill the enemy who waged war on America. Through it, we have all come to understand loss, and sacrifice, and bloodshed, like those generations before us – now seen through a different lens.

The fuse lit on 9-11 has kept this Long War burning – sadly it has become an inconsiderable talking point with mainstream media. There are no more daily tributes of, “Today’s Hero Spotlight,” on CNN and Fox News. Many Americans still fight and die. Their sacrifices fade to back page stories—drowned out by politicians and talking heads prattling on about themselves rather than real issues of those who still fight in Iraq and Afghanistan—warriors who serve to protect their right to spout mindless rhetoric day in and day out.

Some Americans who’ll continue to fight this war were born on September 11, 2001. Young men and women who’ll serve our nation next year after graduating from high school from towns all across America. It’s daunting to even think about that reality.

I’m proud of all who have served to honor those we’ve lost and those who still grieve in every corner of this war. The dead won’t be forgotten by those who’ve fought. I only hope through the wisdom and the leadership of this country it won’t take another 9-11 to bring us all back together as we were then – and should be today. Our diversity, our spirit, and our will to remain unified as a nation is what preserves the freedom we all enjoy. 

 

Major Scott A. Huesing USMC (Ret) is the bestselling author of Echo in Ramadi – The Firsthand Story of U.S. Marines in Iraq’s Deadliest City(Regnery, 2018). He is a proven combat leader with 10 deployments over his career to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He has planned, led, and conducted hundreds of combat missions.