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Family Matters Blog: Blogger Recalls 9/11

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2011 – I was sifting through my crowded closet the other day to see what I could part with when I saw my old Air Force uniform hanging in the back, untouched since I separated about six years ago.

The memories of my time in service came flooding back. And I recalled when I left the military, only to return in the wake of 9/11.

Ten years ago, I was in the process of separating from the Air Force after my initial four-year enlistment. I had just started a new civilian job as a writer at the district court in San Antonio while using up the last of my military leave.

The day started out like so many others. I was a few months pregnant with my first-born and munching on crackers to deal with my usual bout of morning sickness when one of my co-workers came racing over to tell me about a plane striking the World Trade Center. We chalked it up to an unfortunate incident, but not one of major significance.

As the news reports rolled it, we realized it was something much more. It was shocking -- first New York, then the Pentagon and finally, the downed plane in Shanksville, Pa.

The city soon shut down its government offices, and I rushed home to my husband, who had just had corrective eye surgery and was recovering at home.

I sat and watched the news for hours, and a feeling of anguish washed over me as the death toll rose. The final tally was nearly 3,000 military and civilian lives lost and countless others directly affected by that loss.

But then a sense of anger set in at the audacity of these terrorists who dared to breach our soil and kill so many innocent Americans. I felt a need to do something, anything to help. And without a shadow of a doubt, I knew what I had to do.

A few days later, I stood outside my boss’ door with butterflies in my stomach as I waited for him to invite me in. I told him I felt bad about it, but I had to quit. “I’m going back into the Air Force,” I said decisively.

I waited for a lecture about giving notice, or a hint of disapproval at my decision to re-enter at such an ominous time. But there was not a moment’s hesitation in his response.

“I’m proud of you, Elaine,” he said.

He told me to stay in touch and sent me on my way. The next week, I was back in my Air Force uniform serving my nation. I remember feeling so grateful for his support – a support echoed by many other Americans in the aftermath of 9/11.

I stayed in for another enlistment and then separated to become a Defense Department civilian. Even though I no longer wear the uniform, I still feel proud that I can support our service members and their families in some capacity.

When I saw that old uniform in my closet, I was thankful I never parted with it. It serves as a reminder to me of the men and women who volunteer to serve even while we’re a nation at war. When asked, they leave their family and friends behind to ensure an attack like this never occurs again. I’ve met service members who have deployed six, eight or even 10 times for their nation.

This weekend, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I will think of these young men and women and I’ll think about their families, who also make tremendous sacrifices for our nation. And I’ll be thankful that I chose the path I did, and that I had a chance to serve in the aftermath of 9/11 alongside so many others.

I think I’ll move that uniform to the front of my closet tonight.


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