DVIDS – News – Soldiers from the 347th Regional Support Group reflect on the 21st anniversary of 9/11

BAGHDAD – On Monday, September 11, soldiers from the 347th Regional Support Group (RSG), currently deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, participated in commemorative events across Iraq and Kuwait . With the passing on the 21st anniversary of one of the most memorable events in American history, many members of Task Force Victory reflected on their memories of 9/11 and how it shaped their lives.

Just like those who were alive when former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, if you asked the average American where he was when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, you would be given a vivid description that situates in full moment with their.

For Sergeant. 1st Class Jeff Nicholls, currently stationed at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC) in Iraq, his memory involves waking up to the devastating news after the mother of one of his roommates called to tell them what happened. had happened.

“I woke up to the news,” Nicholls said. “I woke up to the mother of one of my housemates who told us that we were going to war.”

Although war had not yet been declared, for many Americans it was an anticipated result of the attacks. Her first thoughts and feelings after hearing the news, Nicholls said, were ones of shock and disbelief.

“It was just disbelief,” he said. “It was ‘What do you mean a plane hit a tower?’ It was a shock.

At 19, Nicholls had already been drafted into the army for a year, and the friends he lived with were also soldiers. Like many others, they’ve been glued to the TV all week, waiting to see what happens next.

“We watched the news all day like everyone else,” he said. “And, you know, we had suspicions that it would affect our lives in the future.”

For many young Americans like him, living in a country at war was not the norm for Nicholls or his friends. The events of 9/11, he recalls, were covered in depth, creating a moment in time his generation will never forget.

“It was an event that our generation will always remember where we were,” he said. “And we will always remember this following week.”

One of the things that sticks most in his memory, Nicholls said, is how people across the country came together in the days following the national tragedy.

“One of the things I think about is how our country has come together,” he said. “We were united, a team at that time.”

Nicholls would go on to deploy later in August 2004 to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and to assist other deployed units as rear party personnel on future deployments thereafter. Now is stationed here in Iraq, this time in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Being here, he said, helps him remember that there is “no better place than home” and that he is happy to be here with his unit.

“I’m happy to be able to come here and do this,” Nicholls said of his current deployment. “…that I can be with my unit…. I am happy to do my part.

Another soldier currently stationed at the BDSC, Master Sgt. Thomas Fox, found himself entering the military after the events of 9/11 unfolded. Fox, who was 17 when the tragedy happened, remembers being home alone getting ready for school that day.

“I was preparing for my first class, I needed a hot topic to discuss during Civics,” Fox said. “I was going to talk about the possibility of Michael Jordan coming out of retirement again, when the broadcast on every channel switched to a live stream from the burning North Tower. Initial reports indicated that a private jet had slammed into the tower, and there was speculation as to how this might have happened.

Shortly after, the reality of what was happening dawned on Fox even more, as he watched a second plane crash into the other tower.

“I remember the second plane coming in from the right side of the screen and colliding with the south tower,” he said. “It was surreal, because I was alone in my house, but as soon as the second plane touched down, everything calmed down. Whether it was the shock of the images or the broadcasters being speechless, it’s a thing I remember, being silent and alone in my thoughts.

After the initial shock, Fox grabbed his things and drove to school, and rushed to the faculty office to tell them to turn on the television, as planes had crashed into the World Trade Center.

“There was a general pause and disbelief,” he said. “But we all finally listened. We watched the other two flights crash and continued to watch the cover intermittently throughout the day.”

Like Nicholls, Fox recalled reactions from the community around him, including the shared fear among many Americans that there would be more attacks, and a ripple effect on the economy from oil embargoes. speculated in response to Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the attacks. .

“Everyone was hyper-vigilant,” he said.

Fox said his decision to enlist in the military on Jan. 4, 2002, was “two-pronged.” As he sought financial support to help pay for his college education, like many other American men and women, he felt the call of duty to his country. Where that call would take him, Fox said, was far greater than he imagined.

“I had no idea the extent of my involvement in the War on Terror (through) Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve over the next 21 years,” he said. he declared.

Fox first deployed to Italy and Turkey in 2003 in support of OEF, then immediately after returning in 2004, he was activated in October 2005 for six months of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, before departing. to be deployed in Iraq in 2006 for the OIF. During his stay Fox was involuntarily extended for five months, before returning in July 2007. In 2008 Fox was again deployed to Iraq and in 2014 he was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. Now he’s back in Baghdad, for Operation Inherent Resolve.

Being back here for the 21st anniversary of 9/11, Fox said, is a “multifaceted” feeling.

“It’s a multi-faceted feeling,” he said. “I take a break each day to understand my role in an effort that has spanned the overwhelming majority of my career. I try to stay mindful of my actions and service in the military, and I’m dark in my memories. as to what has brought me to this point in my military career.

Fox said that while he misses his loved ones and appreciates their sacrifices while he’s gone, he’s proud of the work he’s done with his teammates, past and present. His hope, Fox said, is that everyone takes time to appreciate the time spent with those they love.

“I hope everyone takes time, even a moment, every day to appreciate the time they spend with their friends and family,” he said. “Days like 9/11 provide ample opportunity to pause, but we shouldn’t (only) use days like this to remind ourselves to take time.”

For another soldier in the 347th RSG, 9/11 was an event that pushed her to work towards her dream of joining the military. sergeant. Christen Marchio, currently stationed at Erbil Air Base (EAB), Iraq, recalls her boyfriend’s mother coming down the stairs to share the news.

“She said ‘You have to see this. History is being made,'” Marchio said. height and read the headlines rolling by. I was shocked.”

At the age of 18, Marchio remembers watching the chaos and disorder, overwhelmed with disbelief that something like this would happen in “the land of the free”.

Watching what looked like a horror movie unfold in front of her, Marchio said she was overwhelmed with the desire to travel to City to help. Although it was not a possibility at the time, the feeling reignited his desire to enlist.

“I was off duty when the attacks happened, but I always felt a call that it was my destiny to serve my country and defend those I love and their freedom,” he said. she declared. “This act of terrorism in the United States, on our soil, on our people, only confirmed that I needed to serve. I had an overwhelming feeling that this was where I belonged.

Although his enlistment was delayed for many years due to medical clearance, Marchio continued to push towards achieving his dream. She was finally able to enlist in the Minnesota National Guard on January 10, 2014. Her time in service took her to two active duty assignments in the state and a tour to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 2020 to 2021. .
Now, being here in Iraq on the 21st anniversary of 9/11, Marchio said she had had time to reflect on what she had done in her career and the sacrifices made by her and her family to ensure that she realizes her dream.

“I made many sacrifices, as did my family, so that I could fulfill my calling, serve my country and its way of life,” she said. “It (September 11) was a humiliating day here. I have raised and lowered several American flags to honor and remember those who serve, have served, support our service, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Date taken: 14.09.2022
Date posted: 20.09.2022 08:11
Story ID: 429677
Location: IQ

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Virginia S. Braud