Reflecting back upon Sept. 11, 2001 through memories and songs

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- As another year goes by, most of us can't help but reflect back to what we were doing five years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. 

I'm a country music fan, and many of the songs I hear on the radio make me often think back to that day. There is the Alan Jackson song that asks, "Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day? Did you stand there in shock? Did you weep for the children? Did you burst out in pride for the red white and blue; the heroes who died just doing what they do?" 

I remember exactly where I was that day. I remember waking up and turning on the news like I always do. I was talking to one of my sisters on the phone when I saw the report of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center. 

Shortly after seeing it, I remember watching, totally stunned, as another one crashed into the building. I quickly finished putting on my uniform and drove to work at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The gates were backed up for miles and when I arrived I parked my car and helped the lone security forces Airman check vehicles and turn around all but active-duty personnel. He took a call over the radio then turned toward me and yelled "Hey Shirt, can you change the sign to (force protection condition) delta?" 

I still remember the shock I felt at that request. All I could think was that our country was at war, and at that point, none of us knew why. 

Then there is the Darryl Worley song that asks, "Have you forgotten how it felt that day? To see your homeland under fire and her people blown away ... I've been there with the Soldiers who've gone away to war, and you can bet that they remember just what they're fighting for." 

I'll never forget how I felt when I realized our country was under attack. I admit it; I was one of those who always said, "It'll never happen here. That kind of thing doesn't happen in America; it happens in all of the other countries not big enough to protect themselves!"
I was wrong. I don't think anyone who wears this uniform will ever forget that day, five years ago. 

Many Airmen chose to join after that day, fully knowing what the military expects of you and also knowing it was what you wanted to do. 

It's hard to leave your families as often as you do. A couple of days ago, I saw 13 of our security forces Airmen off, many of them had returned from an 8-month deployment to Baghdad Feb. 12. Six months later, they are leaving for another 179 days. I saw two pregnant wives that will have their babies while their husbands are gone. This will be at least the second Christmas in a row many of them have missed. 

Why do they do it? Because they haven't forgotten. 

One last song. Toby Keith has a song with an American Soldier who says, "I don't do it for the money ... I don't do it for the glory, I just do it anyway. Providing for our future's my responsibility." 

That is why we are here, and that is why we are fighting this war. To make sure what happened five years ago doesn't happen again. 

I hope that when you reflect back and look at what you are doing today, you are proud to be wearing this uniform and are proud to be defending our flag. I hope you are proud to be securing the future for those you love. 

For everyone who serves in the military, you have my utmost respect; especially those of you who have entered since 9/11. Whether you stay four years or 30, you are serving your Nation. Be proud of that!