9/11 & My Family
by Classics author, and guest blogger, Andrew Lubin
Like everyone else in the New York, New Jersey area, I remember the startling clarity of the day. Picture-perfect blue skies when I left for work, but heartbreaking later that morning as we watched the two towers collapse and the thick black smoke, billowing straight up and soiling the sky.
I also remember my son storming into my plant a few hours later. It was the 2nd week of his freshman year in college, and when the towers fell, marketing and accounting became the furthest thing from his mind. “We’ve got to get even,” he raged, and in a comment that later gained popularity with a certain group of highly-motivated young men, said “we need to ‘get some’.”
Then one October evening he casually mentioned to me he’d enlisted in the Marine Corps, and what did I think?
College was not a challenge, he said, and he needed something that enabled him to stand out from the crowd. He volunteered that the 9/11 attacks made him think that college and a business career was no longer the be-all and end-all that’s so prevalent in the greater NY-NJ area; 17 people from our county were killed that day, and their hard-earned professions and degrees seemed suddenly unimportant and impotent to him. And how could people not volunteer for the military? Isn’t this our version of Pearl Harbor? He’d been doing some hard thinking since 9/11, he told me, and the more he thought about it, how could he not join the Marine Corps?
In July 2002 he graduated boot camp and joined the fleet as an artilleryman, and was sent to 1st Bn, 10th Marines in Camp Lejeune…and only 6 weeks later was called to war New Years Day 2003 and 12 days later sailed off to Iraq with Task Force Tarawa.
March 23, 20003, 0335 EST…I’ve got three televisions on in my house watching the Marines fighting at An-Nasiriyah, and the news is grim. Initial casualty reports are of 50-70 Marine dead, scores wounded, something about an ambushed Army convoy…and suddenly Kerry Sanders-MSNBC is screaming about an intense Marine artillery barrage holding off the Iraqi’s…it’s the artillerymen of 1st Bn, 10th Marines and Sanders is difficult to hear he’s so close to the Marine howitzers…Dear God, I’m watching my son’s unit fight…
18 Marines killed that day, and I wrote about the battle. Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq won some awards and I wrote some articles and did some TV spots. Then as my son returned to Iraq and the Sunni Triangle in 2004-2005, the Marines took notice of my work, and in 2006 I ended up in Beirut in the 24th MEU covering the emergency evacuation of 12,000 American citizens as the Israeli-Hezbollah war broke out.
He was stationed in Okinawa; I visited him. I went to Ramadi and covered the rising Sons of Anbar and interviewed Sheikh Sattar; he went to the Philippines and trained Philippine artillerymen. I went to Afghanistan in 2008; he ran the artillery segment of the multinational Operation Cobra Gold in Thailand. And last year we were in Afghanistan at the same time, so I went to his base and spent a few days with him.
My goal is very simple in writing and recording the stories of our young men in combat: I need to do as good a job in recording history as they do in making it. I’m always asked when I’m embedded “Hey Sir, do people at home know we’re still here?” And my answer is always the same “Yes they do, Devil Dog; it’s my job to make them care.”
And what did I think when he told me he’d joined the Marine Corps…I reached across the table; grabbed his hand, and said “I’m proud of you; do your best. Semper Fi.”
Andrew Lubin is the author of Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq, which is available at firstname.lastname@example.org or Classics, 117 South Warren, downtown Trenton. You can learn more about Andrew’s work at his website: http://www.andrewlubin.com/index.html.