LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks also marks the event that lead many veterans to enlist.
“A lot of us were disheartened and felt like our country is under attack and what are we going to do. And there weren’t many options for people to do other than sit in their living room. And me, I was determined to get that re-enlistment code changed and get back into the fight,” said U.S. Army veteran Robert Smith.
Smith was a cook in the U.S. Navy before leaving the service in 1996. But after the 9/11 attacks, he said he knew he had to re-enlist.
“I got a person, a recruiter in Howell that was able to actually helped me out. That whole process was about a year it took,” he said.
Smith said he deployed to Iraq in 2006. Then seven years later, he was sent to Afghanistan. But what he experience overseas was not what he expected.
“I learned first hand that these individuals were a lot like myself. They are wonderful people, they have family, they weren’t the terrorist that they make them out to be on tv,” he said.
The feeling of needing to enlist was not just felt by Smith. U.S. Marine Veteran Ben Hall said after September 11th, his ideas for the future shifted.
“I still had plans of going to college and becoming a police officer. You know, plans change. Eventually, we entered a war with Iraq and I went into the Marine Corps at the same time,” Hall said.
“Without serving just five years, I would not be where I am today. There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said.
Looking back at his service, he says that being a Marine taught him unity, a lesson he thinks everyone should learn.
“For a while, this country had that belonging. We’re all Americans, we were all attacked that day. And today, I feel like we don’t have that anymore,” he said.