I remember 9/11 very vividly. For me, it was very personal: an aircraft from my airline (American), crashed into the Pentagon, killing an old friend and squadron mate—Commander Daniel “Spike” Shanower, a great guy and a great Intel Officer.
I sat with my son, Leland (III) a couple of days later; he was 15 and had grown up on Navy bases. The suddenly patriotic press was gushing over America.
“How long do you think this will last?” he asked.
I thought it was very prescient for a teenager. I couldn’t lie to him.
“It will be fashionable for a while, and then they will forget and go back to bashing America.”
He nodded, not doubting my words. I felt some guilt for my pessimistic comment but having grown up in the seventies, I had seen the cycle before. I was in ROTC on the campus of the University of Missouri and had absorbed the anti-military barbs of students and faculty. That suddenly changed when the hostages were taken in Iran.
I explained to my son that some people have to sacrifice so that the rest can live in peace. September 11, 2001 brought it home. But just like with Pearl Harbor, it would be forgotten—except by the few who will take the watch.
Four years later, Leland left that same college campus after his freshman year and joined the Army. He went to the Suni Triangle as a machine gunner with the 10th Mountain Division. Being patriotic was no longer fashionable, but he still took the watch. Thankfully, he returned to us, wearing a Purple Heart and a Combat Infantry Badge.
That same year, his brother, David joined him, enlisting in the Air Force. He is a Crew Chief on the B-2 bomber for the Air Guard while in flight school at Central Missouri State. Their sister, Kaitlyn is in nursing school and plans on the Air Force. Their youngest brother, William (still in high school) wants to be a Marine. My wife and I didn’t encourage the military life; to be honest, we discouraged it. After 21 years, we knew how hard and dangerous a lifestyle it is.
They answered the call.
This is dedicated to the young men and women who are Patriots, not when it is in style, but when it is the hardest.