PolicyMic: September 11 2001: The Day Everything Changed for the US Military
Truman Project Fellow Chris Miller explains how 9/11 changed his life and the lives of our military men and women
For many who spent time in uniform on 9/11/01, life is very much a story of before and after. I listened to the broadcast of the attacks on BBC radio while on an Army field exercise in Graefenwoehr, Germany. Much was different for soldiers before that day and much has changed since then.
Before, we trained with deployments to places like Bosnia or Kosovo in mind, not Afghanistan or Iraq. We wore Cold War-era equipment and woodland camouflage uniforms and slept in tents in the woods or in soft-sided military vehicles. Being stationed in Germany, we were all more practiced at fighting a Warsaw Pact enemy in the snow, mud, and rain of Europe than the urban or desert terrain of the Middle East. The Army life was generally as routine as military life can be. You get a new assignment and pack your bags for someplace new about every two years.
As we listened to the towers fall, still hoping it was some kind of an accident, we didn’t know how much things were about to change. Our exercise was cut short and we loaded into our vehicles and headed back to our post the next morning. An image I will always remember from that convoy is of Germans driving past waving small American flags out of the windows of their cars and shouting slogans of support. If any country knows what good the U.S. military has done in the world, it is Germany. Fifty six years before, America and its allies had rolled over the Nazis and then spent the next several decades rebuilding our former enemy under the Marshall Plan. U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany have been supporting the economy and our NATO ally since 1945. It may have been a rocky relationship since 2003, but I’ll always remember the faces of those German men and women waving the flag in support of America, in support of a country not their own and to people they would never meet.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Truman National Security Project or Educational Institute.