Today we remember the terrorist attacks that took place on 11 September, 2001. In the first of a series of personal vignettes, Havok Journal writer Leonard Benton offers a moving account of his experiences on 9/11 and after.
It was a routine day. I got up and went to work as I normally did. The only thing different was that I had a team meeting with my fellow recruiters in the next town. I was on the road when my wife called me tears and anguish in her tone as she told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and they were saying it was not an accident.
I put my foot to the gas. I don’t know what I intended to do but the instinctive response to get to a place of duty where I might be needed was pushing me. I pulled in and ran inside and found everyone watching the television and I stood shocked and my own tears freely flowing as the second plane hit, then the third, then the call that a plane had piled driven itself into to the ground in Pennsylvania.
The rest of the day was a slow heat applied until by the end of the day I, and everyone around me was filled with a nearly impotent killing rage. Our Nation had been attack on our watch and for the moment, there was nothing we could do.
My heart was in my throat as report after report told about the deaths of people trapped and then the first tower came down with all those trapped inside and I was powerless. The second tower fell and my heart sank to an emotional pit that was filled with bile and rage.
I believe if I had the ability to fire a nuclear weapon at that moment, I would have launched. I would have picked my targets to punish and I would have fired and I cannot honestly say I would have had remorse. That was the level of my anger. I did not know a single person that died but they were killed on my watch and I wanted vengeance.
But something unique happened as well. Something that had not happened since Dec 7, 1941, the sleeping dragon that is the American Patriot, opened a baleful eye and for one shining moment, all Americans were united.
I had the privilege of serving a few years later with men and women from the 42nd Infantry Division. I spoke with several who, on that fateful day, put on their uniforms and reported in because they knew they were needed. They ran towards the call of duty. They told me about firemen friends and police who also ran towards the danger and who lost their lives trying to help their fellow citizens.
I went to war twice in Iraq and I watched the world change. I watched as a nation which had stood shoulder to shoulder with terrible resolve to ‘Never Forget’ slowly grew bored with their duty of eternal vigilance and the cost such vigilance requires.
I retired from service but not from duty. I still watch and I still keep the faith to Never Forget. What our Nation fails to understand is that they made promises that our national identity demands they respect. The Nation collectively promised to Never Forget. That is not a bumper sticker. That is a promise engraved on the soul of this Nation.
America promised to take care of her warriors and we find that promise contains less honestly than love from a 2 dollar a trick whore. If you don’t care for the warriors who have done as you asked, you may not get warriors to stand up in the future.
But the real failure was to let the vigilance slide. The partisan politics that erode our focus drives our eyes away from our security. The businesses that drove up the cost of the war for their own profits all the while saying they did it for the war fighter and the budget battles that affect readiness and tell the warriors that their concerns are unheeded by those in office.
This war is not over. People casually toss around words like genocide and ethnic cleansing as if someone is proposing those as answers. I am not interested in the annihilation of Islam. We don’t need to destroy a religion in order to effectively deal with those who defile it.
ISIS is on the move. This is a threat we cannot avoid or divert. It must be dealt with and sooner rather than later. Failure to do otherwise is a failure of our commitment to ourselves and our dead.
I swore an oath. That oath was to my Nation before God and that oath encompassed the dead, my dead, your dead. Arlington Cemetery holds the promise of this Nation paid in blood.
We do not need to destroy Islam but we do need to destroy those who defile it. We need to find the terrorists and crush them where ever they are. Because as long as we leave them free, they poison more minds and kill more innocents. We have a choice. To fight when and where we find them, or defend when and where they attack us and that is a recipe for disaster.
I don’t want my children or grandchildren to fight an endless war. I know firsthand what war is and that is not a gift I would give them. But I fear greatly that it is a consequence of this world today. What we want is irrelevant. We must, as a Nation, face what is reality and deal with it before our enemies deal with us.
The future may hold it necessary to kill our fellow man in order to survive as a nation and as a people. The choice my friend is to accept that either you will be the victor or the victim. There is no middle ground and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something you don’t want to buy.
© 2014 The Havok Journal