Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years ago

Eight years ago, I was at the state headquarters trying to make sense of what was happening. As a member of the military, we are taught to act when something happens. The problem was we didn’t know quite what was happening and didn’t know what to do. I had a meeting early that morning at a different base and remembering racing back to the headquarters. I got to my office around 9:00 AM and did not go home until almost 2:00 AM. I remember driving home and looking up at the night sky realizing for the first time in my life, the only lights in the sky were stars.

The events eight years ago changed so many things. Over the next six years (2001-2007), almost everyone I knew, myself included, would be deployed. Our training went from a “what if” to a right-now mentality. The number of sorties being flown drastically shortened the life cycle of our aircraft. National Guard and Reservists were being called up at levels not seen since WWII. HUMVEEs had to be up-armored in country to try to give soldiers and Marines some protection against roadside bombs (originally these were made from surplus ordnance but now are specifically manufactured to defeat our armor plate). The M-4 carbine replaced the older M-16A2. Body armor became standard issue while chemical warfare ensembles gathered dust in warehouses. Desert Camouflage Uniforms (DCUs) replaced Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs) in country and in turn, this lead to all branches going to a new utility uniform that could be worn both in theater as well as in garrison. The USAF adopted the Airman’s Combat Uniform (ACUs) with sage green suede boots. Security Forces were no longer stationed at the front gates of USAF bases, being replaced by contract security freeing SFS more personnel to serve in theater. I believe the USAF lost some of the heritage with this last change; seeing SFS personnel wearing their distinctive dark blue beret was always a sight I associated with driving on base. It just doesn’t seem the same without SFS on the gate.

As a result of 9/11, we are now seeing veterans rejoining society at a level not seen since WWII. Unlike other wars, many of today’s veterans have suffered head traumas. Their wounds aren’t as apparent and the long-term effects are still unknown. For the first time ever in the US, these veterans include many women. The long-term effects of severed limbs and damaged body parts on these brave women are also unknown. Our society is so focused on feminine beauty, how will these women be accepted by society?

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