The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


September 12, 2011

Name: 1SGT (retired) Troy Steward
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: Keeping An Eye on Afghanistan

In September 2006 I wrote this:

"Five years and one day ago was September 10th, 2001 and I had just flown in to Boston-Logan Airport that day to begin another week with my client. I was an independent contractor at the time and was working on a large project for Sun Microsystems, Workscsape Inc, and General Motors. The week of 9/10/01 was a week of system load testing and performance testing. So I flew in during the morning and went to the client site. The testing started at 6:00 PM and went until about 4:00 AM on 9/11/01. After the testing was over I went to my hotel and fell fast asleep. Prior to going to bed, I shut off the ringer on my cell and set the alarm for noon to I could get up, get ready and back into the office for the next night’s testing.

"I know it was very tough for people to watch the events on the morning of 9/11 to unfold before them and it essentially numbed our nation. However I think the way I found out was very tough, if not tougher. I woke up with my alarm, and immediately noticed that my voicemail light on the phone was blinking. I remember thinking I was glad I had turned that ringer off.

"I opened my phone to see multiple missed calls from my wife, brother and parents. I also saw a few text messages that told me to call home ASAP. My heart dropped as the first thought was that something had happened to one of my parents. I called my wife who told me to turn on the TV. As I did, she was rattling off what had happened with planes into both towers, both towers down, one plane into the Pentagon, one plane crashed near Pittsburgh (where my brother and his family lives), the country under attack, planes being grounded, etc., etc., etc.

"This is where I experienced what I call information overload. My mind honestly could not handle what I was hearing from my wife and seeing on the TV. She was telling me the towers were down, but my mind was seeing pre-recorded images of the towers standing and burning and I was arguing with her telling her “They are not, I can still see them standing." My mind could not comprehend what I was seeing. It was a very emotional and confusing moment. After I hung I up, sitting on the end of the bed in my hotel room, I wept… just plainly wept. Crying for my country, and my fellow Americans. As I drove into the office, I was on the phone with my National Guard unit trying to make contact with someone and angrily asking what I could do and when we were being called up. The next day I was flying about 90 mph down the I-90 back to Buffalo…"


The difference between five years after and ten years after is that when I wrote the above post I was in Afghanistan, at war. I was there as part of the retaliation for those attacks. Now I am a contractor working for the Army supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I look back at both milestones and think about all the time between, it hits me how much has changed since 9/11/01. My life is completely different today than it would have been had those attacks never happened; not only my life but pretty much that of everyone in the military today, or anyone who has been in the military at any time in the last 8-10 years.

I wonder how many friends', past soldiers', and comrade’s lives would be different simply in their still being here, and not buried six feet deep. How many people I know who have been wounded in combat, would still have all their parts, pieces and wits?

As I look back it is not just reflecting on the sad day ten years ago, it is also trying to imagine what my life would be like without the friends I have developed as a result of my deployment, my work today and especially my blogging. My blogging friends, all milbloggers, are a major part of my life and some of the closest friends I have ever had. It is almost like having a wife and kids for several years, then trying to imagine what life would be like without them, and trying to imagine what life was like before them.

I have a hard time remembering what the Army was like before 9/11; before the war-footing we took on in October 2001.

Ten years ago today, at this exact moment, I could not have begun to imagine where I would be today. And I really can’t even guess where I will be ten years from now.

I hope and pray that the pain and anguish which family and friends of those lost ten years ago experienced has been dulled. But I wish and pray that the patriotism America experienced ten years ago would come back and be felt again.


I share your hope and prayer that our sense of all being Americans first and foremost has a new birth. And I pray that the petty bickering, anger and hatred is utterly dissolved.

I remember the day after going into work as security thinking, Wow would someone actually fly a plane into this building killing everyone. I also remember everyone getting together at our church to help some of the churches near ground zero with money. The pastors there where maxing out the credit cards to help as many people as they could. So we had to help them, right? The patriotism shown in the coming days was incredible and would be great if that would happen without a national disaster.

"I wish and pray that the patriotism America experienced ten years ago would come back and be felt again."

It is always the way. Read Housman's, "To An athlete Dying Young":

"Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose."

I am very sorry for the loss of your friends -- the best America has to offer. But no rah-rah will ever bring them back, and the solace you would feel would be illusory. What will dull the pain or murder, either of those in the WTC or your friends? Certainly not patriotism. I am sorry.

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