Sunday, 11 September 2011

11th September 2001

As the world remembers the heinous acts of terrorism conducted by extremists in the United States ten years ago, they remember the tremendous loss of life of those in American Airlines flight 11, United Airlines flight 175 and the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.  No less significant and equally as tragic were the crashing of American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon in Arlington Virginia and the attack foiled by the brave passengers of United Airlines flight 43 which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

These attacks rocked the western world and beyond.  Witnessed by millions of people around the globe, terror attacks that had previously been the purview of fiction writers unfolded before our eyes.  Even the most harden amongst us were affected; cascading emotions tearing through us as we watched, with horror and unbelief, the greatest loss of human life in a coordinated terrorist attack.

That day changed the lives of millions of people.

The ramifications of that day changed the face of the Earth.  Not just the heartbreaking scar in the middle of downtown Manhattan, but the balance of power in Asia and the Middle East.  That day, ten years ago, would lead to governments misleading their countries, lies and ultimately, two bloody wars.

The attacks changed my life profoundly.  Although I lost no friends in the attacks against the World Trade Centre, I lost colleagues in the Pentagon.  What I didn't know, at that time, was that it was going to cost me a lot more.  Much, much more.

Although my first deployment to Afghanistan was tinged with excitement, I was also acutely aware of why I was going and what I would be called upon to do.  I knew that the death toll in America was only the start.  We were going into Afghanistan for one reason: to kill the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.  I was going to do my duty as my superiors demanded and the most chilling part of it was that I was looking forward to it.  I wanted to reap death and destruction upon those that had the audacity to carry out such craven attack on America.  I'm not even American!

I lost many friends and colleagues during that war and the deaths haven't stopped yet.  So far there has been around 380 British troops killed in action and around 1762 US troops killed.  One of the most significant death was that of a dear colleague killed by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) planted by a Taliban insurgent or, worst still, a local Afghan for a few American Dollars.  Although accustomed to death (several tours in Bosnia showed me the horror of death and the depths of depravity that mankind can sink to), the death of this friend shook me to the core.  This was someone I had trained and convinced to change trade (their original trade would have kept them away from any harm) because it was more challenging.  I regret that conversation and it still haunts me to this day.  As a result of my convincing them to change trade, I had put them in harms way and gotten them killed.

The war in Iraq was something I was completely against.  So much so that I had heated arguments with my superiors and stated that we were breaking International law.  I was aware that the evidence that supported our involvement in Iraq was exaggerated and I was furious when I was informed that I would be going there.  Although I may have disagreed with my government, I was a soldier and I did follow orders.  My arrival in Kuwait and subsequent battles into Iraq sickend me and the slaughter of ill equipped troops only fueled my anger.

As with Afghanistan, I lost several colleagues in Iraq.

That day in September 2001 had led me down this path in which I had little or no control, but it wasn't all bad.

During my career I have always worked closely with the American military.  My deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq led me to develop new friendships with some amazing people.  Although predominately American, I also made new friends with soldiers from France, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany, Holland and even Romania.  We all had a lot in common and there was always mutual respect for each other, even with the French!!  However, it was the Americans that I became closest to, partly because of work and partly because I have always enjoyed the warm way they treated the British.  I made some close friends and have very fond memories of these people that, in all honesty, made my tours that much more bearable.  As a result of my working with the American military, I decided that I wanted to retire to the US!  Unfortunately, unless you have a ton of money, it is very hard for a British Citizen to live in America for more than 3 months.

The 11th of September 2001 changed the lives of many people.  It was a tragic day in our history but one that will be remembered always.  The sadness of that day is not just restricted to the many deaths and destruction in America.  It is extended to those service personnel who paid the ultimate price for their Country and as a consequence of that day.  That sacrifice continues but is sometimes forgotten.

Ten years on and the world remembers that fateful day.  I can recall the day perfectly.  I also remember the pain and anguish as a result of the consequences tempered by the friendship I found in comrades and allies.  As I write this I remember lost friends and the new friends I made during that time of conflict.  I hope they remember me and I hope they remember all that we fought for.

I hope everyone does.

1 comment:

  1. The way that one day changed lives around the world is amazing indeed.
    I am glad you made it safely out of Afghanistan and Iraq!