Like everyone else I know exactly where I was 11 years ago this morning. I was 18, working at Kroger, and leaving for Army basic training in two days. Talk about scaring the hell out of someone. I was getting ready at home, to go meet my boss for lunch, since I wouldn't be seeing them again until I was home after my training. I remember getting out of the shower and turning on the radio to get ready. I wasn't paying attention to what they were saying but I was agitated that none of the stations were playing music. Finally it dawned on me that something was going on so I turned on the tv just in time to see the second plane crash. Holy shit. I had no clue what was going on, but I finally did hear the mention of a terrorist attack. Amidst the tv blaring I finished getting ready and then listened in the car for the 45 minute drive to meet my boss. We were the only two people in the restaurant when we got there, and every television in the place was on CNN and all of the staff was watching with us. It was so surreal.
I remember being terrified of leaving for basic. Shit like this wasn't supposed to happen. I knew in my gut this was going to send our country to war, and ultimately I was going to end up going to war. I mean, you sign up for that stuff when you sign up for the military but kids my age didn't really think about that aspect. Peace keeping missions elsewhere sure...but not war.
9/11 changed history and my life. I left for training on 9/13/01, 8 weeks of basic and then I left for Ft. Lee, VA to finish my AIT training for my military occupation specialty. One of the first days at Ft. Lee, one of the drill sergeants asked which ones of us were going to be stationed at Ft. Stewart, GA. A handful of us raised our hands, and were then told to expect the base to be a ghost town when we got there, and to not get too comfortable. Ft. Stewart is a desert operations support base, so they're some of the first to deploy to anywhere with a desert. I finished up all of my training, and made it to Georgia. It wasn't quite a ghost town, but we knew from the beginning that at some point we'd deploy. I got the news on 12/31/02, new years eve, from a CNN reporter no less. I was home on Christmas leave, and the store I was in had a television on CNN. They reported that the 1st Brigade Combat Team, of the 3rd Infantry Division had received orders to deploy to Kuwait by the end of January. I had to wait til he repeated it to be sure of what I had heard. That was me. My division. My brigade. My unit was leaving, and I was a hot mess.
I got my shit together mentally, and literally by the end of January and we left for Kuwait. The war started, we crossed the Iraqi border, I saw lots of things I never wanted to see and wish I hadn't seen. I got separated from our convoy (had been attached to another unit) and was left in the middle of the Iraqi desert with 3 other soldiers. I made it safely back to my regular unit a little tougher than I was when I'd last seen them, only to learn that two of mechanics were MIA. Two guys that I worked with every day. We later learned that they'd both been killed in the convoy that was attacked, where I think 7 soldiers were captured. The most famous being Jessica Lynch. They had stayed back to help repair vehicles and ended up losing their lives in that attack. I think at that moment it became the most real for me. That could have easily been myself and my squad leader. It could have been any of us.
We spent 8 months in that hell hole, and not a day goes by that I don't think about my time there. It made me tougher, on the outside and in. It made me thankful for all the things I have, and that we take for granted, you know, like hot food, and running water, air conditioning, and a decent bed. I'm very thankful that I got to come home safe to my family. My two friends did not. It's my only deployment (I was honorably discharged when I got pregnant with my daughter), but it changed my outlook on life, and my appreciation for damn near everything. This day will always for me bring back memories of my time in the military, and my two dear friends who lost their lives with countless others defending the freedom that we have here. May you forever rest in peace SSG George E. Buggs, and SGT Edward Anguiano.