On September 11, 2001, I was a carefree 25 year old…..manager of an upscale bistro and also a bartender on my days off. I was thoroughly enjoying my life. Then the event that changed the world for our generation happened. Less than four months later, I, like many other patriotic Americans, had enlisted in the military. I consider that to be the best decision of my life. Fast forward ten years. I was stationed in Singapore in 2011 when I found out I was selected to promote to the rank of Chief Petty Officer (E-7). Unlike other branches of service, the Navy goes through an intensive six week training period for those priviledged enough to be selected for Chief. This training (over the years called various things…..including Initiation, Induction, The Season, and Phase III, just to name a few) is meant to help those selected develop into strong enlisted leaders. This photo is from the U.S. Embassy in Singapore on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. My class of five Chief Selects was invited to participate in the 10th anniversary ceremony there. It was an emotional time for me as I was going through the transition process after being selected for Chief Petty Officer. Part of the transition season is that it is a time to reflect on what brought you to the point where you will receive your Anchors (the symbol of a Chief Petty Officer). As I was reflecting on my Naval career and back to those terrible attacks, I endured a difficult internal conflict which continues to haunt me every year, and likely will continue to burden my thoughts for the rest of my life. While it is awful to even consider being grateful for that day in 2001, there is a part of me that MUST be. That day gave me the courage and determination to radically change my life at the age of 25 and enlist in the U.S. Navy. Only because of that day, did I meet my ex-husband and have our three amazing girls. I will truly never forget the sacrifice all those souls who lost their lives fifteen years ago. Nor those who fought valiantly afterwords. It will always be a poignant reminder that as terrible as the events were, I am in debt to the victims and their families. For their sacrifice has brought me the greatest joys of my life.
On a sad side note, something odd struck me today……..fifteen years ago, Americans and our allies around the world hung the American flag and gathered in impromptu groups to sing patriotic songs. The level of patriotism in our country exceeded anything our nation had seen in over 60 years. Today, we stand an entirely different country. Only fifteen years later, instead of reflecting on great patriotism today, we are talking about NFL “role models” (I use that term loosely) who are standing in protest against our national anthem and our flag. Our forefathers must be weeping as much for the state of our nation today as they were in 2001. I weep with them.