I have, like so many other Americans, been thinking a lot about the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this week. However, I keep coming to a different space than what seems to be common. Rather than thinking about that day and where I was in the morning and how the whole day played out (which I do remember totally clearly) , I keep thinking about what it set in motion.
I posted this on my facebook status last night, and the two comments solidified that I needed to write from this view:
MSG: I feel like I should write a 9/11 remembrance blog post, but am so uninspired. I just don’t have any great insights to add and reflect upon. (Having a brother in the Army I think is part of it. The day impacted my life in a very very different way that isn’t as tied to a calendar date as it is to vast expanses of life.)
ArmyWife: enough said…
ArmyMom: Yes, I get that, Melissa. Well said.
On 9/11 my brother was preparing for recruiting school. He had been in the US Army for 5 years at that point. He had no idea how this would shape his Army career. He wound up having an extra long stint as a recruiter, where he helped send others to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was one recruit with a story quite similar to his who died in battle. The Army didn’t want to take the time to train new recruiters, so active recruiters kept having their placements (for lack of better word) extended, despite what a few of these men and women were asking for – which was to be deployed. In an all volunteer Army, you’d think they’d listen to those who were asking to go, but that didn’t happen. When he eventually got out of recruiting (by taking a bad evaluation which has prevented him from being promoted since) he was sent to Korea, where he spent a year patrolling the DMZ line. Still not where he felt he needed to be. There was an active war and he was at the site of one from decades past. In the early years of the deployments, my brother was one of the brave soldiers wanted to be there fighting for our freedoms.
During the time my brother was deployed for his first tour to Iraq, many of the big events occurred. He was there for the “surge” which caused his one year deployment to be extended to 15 months. He was there for the “awakening” – when the local tribes decided to help the US forces to drive out AQI (Al Quida Iraq), and really work to end the war as we knew it. For the extended tour they gaurunteed the troops one year at home before they would be deployed again. Yet my brother was selected to be a part of a special training group and was sent back for a few months. Had his commanding officer not set his foot down, my brother would have spent nearly half of his year at home, back in Iraq. It was ~11 months after arriving back in the US that he got the papers for the next year deployment, though they had known unofficially for quite awhile at that time. The Army didn’t waste any time. So off he went, 366 days after he returned from his 15month deployment, to serve his country. To fight in a combat unit in Baghdad when the American public was being told all combat units were out of the cities. (Even now, the unit he had been with is there as we are told that all combat units are out of Iraq.)
My brother’s time in the Army was not decided because of 9/11 – but it did shape how his Army experience panned out. He was in a few bad “accidents,” saw many friends and comrades die, and attained a purple heart for his physical combat wounds. (The emotional and mental wounds are a totally separate story though.) While we are so very blessed to have him still with us, it has affected our entire family a great deal. He was deployed more than home for the first six years of his daughters life. I got married without my big brother present. Our parents are very nervous about my future learning in Israel, as we are just now having the opportunity for family to be together for special events. It put large riffs of time and space in all of our relationships, which can only begin to work on healing now.
Ironically, this Shabbat was the 20th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah and one of the drashot I heard was about the laws regarding how we have to take care of our siblings and their possessions, and how their needs come first in our daily lives. I think in combination with all the memories and the start of Elul – it is a great time to remind you all to be grateful for the people in your lives you get to see and speak with on a regular basis, and to all the men, women, and children who are missing their relatives who are serving our country – either in life or in death.
The photo is one my mom took of my brother’s mantle. It is his Jewish War Veterans hat, his purple heart and the patches he was wearing when he earned it, and a Killed in Action memorial bracelet for his driver. I couldn’t write about this topic without including that.
Edit: My brother reached out shortly after I posted this to let me know that some of the details are inaccurate. I have asked him for clarification, but am not sure of how I will proceed. This is how I remember it all, and right or wrong, its my reflection on the experience and what has shaped the past ten years of my life with a brother in the US Army. **Some of the updates things which just didn’t get conveyed well second and third hand, others were details I had never heard before – so I changed them in order to best reflect the reality of my brother’s Army experience over the past ten years.**