By Danielle DeSimone
It was a day that changed and shaped our nation. For the friends and family of the 2,977 victims, it was a day of immeasurable loss. For Americans around the country – and the world – it was a time of unity in the face of a shared struggle. And for some, it was a call to action.
Twenty years ago, on September 11, 2001, the United States came under attack. In response, 181,510 Americans enlisted in the ranks of active duty service, and 72,908 joined the enlisted reserves in the year following Sept. 11. Many of these brave service members claimed that it was 9/11 that inspired them to enlist.
How 9/11 Inspired Service Members to Enlist and Follow a Different Path
Seeing such a large-scale attack on the American people at an impressionable age seemed to have been the driving factor in many service members’ first steps into service.
“September 11th happened, and I was single in a little apartment, I was 20 years old,” said Army veteran Josh Revak in a 2016 interview with the USO. “And I just felt like there was more … I should be doing more with my life, and by January I was in basic training.”
Some service members had not previously planned on joining the military until 9/11, but suddenly found themselves reconsidering their life path after witnessing the attacks.
“Prior to that event, I never considered joining the military,” said Army Maj. Tatchie Manso, who was a 20 year-old college student at the time. He was working just seven blocks down from the World Trade Center in New York City when the planes crashed into the towers and saw the destruction of the attacks firsthand.
“It was at that moment I realized that there was something I needed to be part of that was greater than myself.”
For Some Service Members, Enlisting After 9/11 Was a Family Affair
For Marie Obannon, who was a trainee private at the time of her 2019 interview, enlisting in the Army was as much a result of witnessing 9/11 as it was following her family’s legacy of service in times of need.
“It is family tradition to sign up during a time of war to stop evil people from hurting innocents. My family has stood up against evil in World War II and in the Vietnam [War],” Obannon said. “This tragedy became my turn.”
The attacks also inspired a set of twin brothers to enlist in the Marine Corps – together. The two brothers, Nick and James Tomecek, had already planned on joining the Marines before 9/11. But then, after seeing the Sept. 11 attacks, James had a brief moment of hesitation and discussed it with his brother.
“My whole argument was, ‘There’s a freaking war going on. Are you sure you want to be a part of that?’ which he’d respond with, ‘More than ever,’” said then-Staff Sgt. James Tomecek in a 2015 interview. “I remember telling him, ‘Well, I’m not going to let you go to war by yourself, so I guess we’re joining the Marine Corps.’”
On that fateful day, out of the fires and tragedy emerged a new generation of service members, ready and prepared to serve and defend their country and their fellow Americans, no matter the risk.
This story was originally published on USO.org in 2020. It has been updated in 2021.
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