As we remember the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 and how two decades of war have impacted our military families, we are in awe of how multiple generations have been impacted.
Especially in light of the recent, magnanimous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, we asked our Military Spouse magazine contributors how their families have been most affected over the last 20 years. It’s so much more than can be expressed in one comment box. This is an emotionally challenging time for our nation, but we must keep sharing our stories as our memories knit our lives together as one united nation. We recognize and thank our service members for their sacrifice over the last 20 years, and we stand with you as we find a way to move forward together.
“Sept. 11 was a turning point that has not only defined my generation, but also my family. My brother was fresh out of USMC boot camp when the towers fell. He was supposed to be on a plane that day, but last minute hometown recruiting was approved. I had always wanted to serve, and to see our country under attack solidified that choice. In 2003, I graduated high school as my brother was the first line into Iraq and in the battle of Fallujah. After college, commissioning, and training, my brigade deployed in 2011 (both my husband and I went on this deployment as our young children lived with grandparents for a year) and would be the last combat troops in Iraq as we worked to pull out the equipment and shut down Iraq as part of President Obama’s promise to have all combat troops out by Dec. 31, 2011. The events of Sept. 11 became the reason that so many of my generation signed up to serve, and while many of us would never want another day like that, I know many of us miss the unity of our country in the days that followed.”Megan Harless, veteran and military spouse
“I was in college in D.C. that day, and my boyfriend had already enlisted in the Marine Corps, but had not yet gone to boot camp. In the weeks that followed, we realized how much the event would impact our nation, our future, and our relationship. In the past 20 years, he has done five combat deployments fighting the Global War on Terror. The kids and I have made numerous sacrifices to support his mission. Twenty years has gone so quickly, but there are days when I feel it aged us even faster.”Lizann Lightfoot, The Seasoned Spouse, author of “Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses.”
“The current events happening in Afghanistan have really caused me to pause and reflect upon the sacrifices our military members and their families have made and continue to make. My thoughts and prayers are with our military and people of Afghanistan. During these times more than ever we must come together as a nation and support each other.”Moni Jefferson, CEO AMSE, creator of My Ultimate PCS App, founder of Milspouse Creative, CEO Dog Tags + Heels
“As a 16-year-old girl, I watched from across the nation as the first tower burned, then the second plane hit, followed by the collapse of each building. My heart ached for those victims so far removed from me, not knowing how intricately intertwined my life would become with the effects of 9/11. The following year, one of my best friends accepted a scholarship to the United States Military Academy. Eight years later, I married that young man. We endured two deployments to Afghanistan and worked through the natural consequences of the battlefield on a marriage. Despite the disastrous events that occurred on 9/11, God’s glory shines through the blessings amid the destruction. We see it in deep-rooted friendships, beloved neighbors, churches that gather to pray, citizens that support, soldiers who unite, and military communities that feel like family.”Ashley Ashcraft, military spouse and author of “Stop Being a _______ Wife.”
“The events of 9/11 sent shock waves through my family. My brother-in-law and I were both serving together the day everything unfolded. Our company was whisked to a briefing room while our personal phones rang nonstop. My mother, father, and sister were frantic. I do not think their feelings have changed over the past 20 years. However, they all still hold a strong sense of patriotism and pride for our military. Numerous deployments have worn us down, but we still support our missions abroad; we are still supportive of protecting our nation, no matter the cost.”Joshua Napper, military spouse
“The military kids. I’ve been most affected by the nearly 20 million kids whose parent(s) have served their country, deployed without notice and returned home, maybe not quite the same as they left. The military kids who have changed schools 13 times, repeated material, didn’t make the team or have said more goodbyes than they’ve said hellos. It’s the military kids who move without notice, who have attended schools in Qatar, Japan, Germany, Alaska, Alabama, California—and remember every teacher or best friend they ever had. It’s the military kids who didn’t graduate with their friends and the kindergarteners who had to wait a year to go to school. It’s the military kids whose parents have missed their school performance, all star game, recital, science fair, parent-teacher conference, and graduation—not because a parent had to work late, but because a parent was in a war zone. It’s the military kids who have become Gold Star Kids that bring me back to the reason a parent is no longer with them. It’s the military kids who have changed me—my own included. 9/11 gave us so much heartache, heroism, sadness, conflict, loss and anger, but it also gave us these amazing military kids who will rule the world one day because of the life they have lived. Our world will be a better place for them.”Stacy Huisman, co-author, “Seasons of My Military Student: Practical Ideas for Parents and Teachers”
“For military families, having a loved one in a war zone was always a possibility. After the 9/11 attack, however, that possibility turned into a given…it became when, not if. Reality set in very quickly that this would be a very different war. All families, active duty and reserve, had to have difficult conversations about future plans, including my own. The service member signs the dotted line to serve her or his country, but the whole family actually serves in one way or another.”Capt. Scott C. Gibney, US Navy (Ret.), co-owner Gibney Solutions LLC
“I would love to say that 9/11 prompted my family members to serve, but to be honest, my family seems to feel a need to be part of something bigger than us with or without the events of that day. However, all of us who have worn the uniform have been impacted in one way or another, whether it was quick, unplanned deployments in 2001 to start the attack on those who attacked the US to later in life enlisting to continue the family tradition. Some of us returned home with invisible wounds while others have scars that all can see. But no matter what shape we are in now, all of us have been proud to serve.”Katherine Gaither, teacher