Most people remember where they were on Sept. 11, 2001 or what they were doing when first hearing the news of what had happened. It changed the way Americans looked at the military and the role of service members. The events of that day influenced some to enlist, or to continue serving their country.
For two Sailors currently serving aboard the Nimitz, 9/11 was a life-changing event.
“September 11th came and I was at A-school class that morning,” said Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Joseph Herrera, the Quality Assurance Petty Officer onboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). “When class was dismissed and we found out what had happened, we all ran to the nearest TV to watch the news. Seeing the Twin Towers burning on screen really brought on the perspective that this isn’t just a job, this is the military.”
Herrera had enlisted three months prior to the events as a way out of Indiana and a means for getting college paid for once his six-year contract was up. But then, suddenly being in the military meant possibly going to war, which changed Herrera’s way of thinking about his career.
Every year near the anniversary of 9/11, Herrera is reminded of how that day solidified his decision to continue past his initial enlistment in the Navy. He said he wants to continue serving until there are no more threats to the United States.
No matter what position someone holds in the military, whether on the front lines or behind them, everyone does their part in supporting the War on Terrorism.
“I acquired a larger sense of duty,” said Herrera. “Now I feel like I am a cog in an important machine that needs me. If I’m not turning wrenches, the ship doesn’t go. It makes me feel like more of the driving force, part of the ship.”
A statistic from the Navy Recruiting Command website shows that enlistments rose only modestly after 9/11. More than a decade after the attacks, some Americans personally affected by the day’s events still feel called to serve their country.
Information Systems Technician Seaman Vidal Bachan, who works in Combat Systems Department onboard Nimitz, said that 9/11 and the threats to our country’s freedom were a big influence in his enlisting into the Navy.
“All I really remember is this time of war that we’re in,” said Bachan, who was seven years old at the time of 9/11.
His father, who got out of the Navy before Bachan was born, ended up reenlisting after the events of that day. He said it was challenging for his mother to raise him all by herself during that time.
“It was hard to live without my dad for months on end, to a year, while he was deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan,” said Bachan. “I knew he was doing a good thing. When I joined I wanted to follow his footsteps and continue on defending our freedom, because I had seen in person what bad people can do to us.”
Bachan was in school in Rosedale, N.Y., about 45 minutes away from the World Trade Center, at the time of the incident. He was out at recess and said that he could see the smoke rising from where the towers were.
“It looked kind of like a forest fire because there were trees between where I was and where the towers were,” said Bachan. “When we went inside and saw the news we knew differently.”
Bachan said he talked with the other students about rumors, but because they were children, he knew that no one really knew what was happening.
“Since we were so close to what had happened, everyone we knew was grieving or was still in shock,” said Bachan.
“No one really knew what to do next. The whole atmosphere changed, everything was way more stressful and everyone was on edge.”
Bachan said he could see that people were trying to act normal, but he could feel that everyone was distraught, or confused and scared. He said that because he was so young, the adults hid things from him so that he wouldn’t have to deal with what had happened like they had to, but he still knew.
Both Bachan and Herrera felt compelled to join in the fight against terrorism.
Today’s Navy is comprised of Sailors from every region of the country and corners of the world. Some, like Herrera, may have joined years ago, for college benefits and a fresh start. Others may have joined specifically in response to 9/11. Either way, every Sailor today is playing an active role in the War on Terrorism.
Story by MCSA Weston Mohr