All of these stories from the Global War on Terror invariably lead back to that Tuesday in September. I was a sophomore in high school and I was sitting in math class. A teacher walked in suddenly from the neighboring classroom carrying a disbelieving smirk on his face. Not the inappropriate kind, just the face you make when your heart and your mind can’t communicate in sync. He said the World Trade Center just collapsed, and we all moved next door where one of those box TVs found in every high school AV department had been rolled into a corner, replaying the horrible scene on repeat. I sat on a desk in the back, and everyone stared in silence as we watched the world we knew disappear into fire and dust. The war in which I’d come to fight started shortly after in the fall of 2001, but I wouldn’t step foot in Afghanistan until nearly 12 years to the day after that fateful morning, and many of the guys I served with were just beyond wearing diapers when the towers fell.
So, while 9/11 is the thing that tethers all of our stories to a connected narrative, it’s so much less compelling than all of our other reasons for being in this fight. The ones that developed slowly at home over the many years of this long war, on street corners in Compton, sprawling Texas ranches, Oregon mountainsides, trailers in Michigan, and suburban tracts in Pennsylvania. Our reasons are as varied and complex as the war itself, which devolved from a purposeful act of vengeance into the inextricable tiger ride it has become. We went to cure, to elevate, to accentuate, or to escape those parts of us we knew needed more explicit attention, and some of us found what we were looking for. Some of us didn’t. This vein of essays and posts will follow individual stories from GWOT Veterans, diving into their “why” and whether their expectations of war were met, exceeded, or fell short. Look for the category “Other Reasons” on future posts and follow the blog to stay in tune with current work getting posted every week.
Vets/Active Service Members: If you’d like to contribute to this series, please reach out on our Contact Us page and we’ll be in touch. Help us #bridgethegap!