I have been out of the Navy since 31 July 2004. I served until that date as a Naval Officer and was commissioned as an officer on the day I graduated from the United States Naval Academy on 25 May 2001.
During my four years at the Naval Academy we were constantly told about how the world was changing and they explained the complexities of warfare. We were told that identifying the enemy wasn’t as easy as it used to be and that we would be fighting in smaller, more littoral areas because of the end of the Cold War.
Then, in October 2000, during the fall of my first class (senior) year, the USS Cole suffered a terrorist attack while in port in Yemen.
We were attacked by terrorists?
No one had dared attack the U.S. since Pearl Harbor. Surely, these terrorists would pay.
After graduation I went to my first sea tour as a division officer on the USS Sacramento (AOE-1), a supply ship based out of Bremerton, Washington. I arrived in late June/early July 2001 and we shipped out on deployment before the month was over.
Security measures for port visits had been escalated, but not by a lot. In port, watch standers were not heavily armed and we were free to visit our scheduled ports. Two days out of entering the Persian Gulf, the world changed again. During dinner, via satellite, we watched the news coverage of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. We watched in disbelief as the World Trade Center collapsed, the Pentagon was attacked, and some very brave civilians gave their lives to prevent a fourth attack when their plane went down in Pennsylvania.
But on the other side of the world, in an already hostile environment, we had no choice but to go on with our mission.
We sent the necessary supplies over to our combatant ships so they could start the bombing in Afghanistan. We continued at an accelerated pace for a few weeks, and, at the end of October, I left my ship for scheduled training in Newport, Rhode Island.
It was in Newport that I met an officer who had been onboard the USS Cole at the time of the terrorist attack. His words sent a chill down my spine as I could only imagine how terrifying and chaotic that event was for him and his shipmates.
Fast forward to today and we have liberated Iraq, carried out the death penalty on Saddam Hussein, and now, finally, captured and killed the man who started it all, Osama Bin Laden.
But how do I feel about that? I always assumed that upon hearing the news of his capture that I would be filled with joy because this man was just so hard to find. I have lost shipmates in the War on Terror and it has been used as political leverage at the expense of those of us who have chosen to serve our country.
Honestly, though, I feel torn. Part of me wants to run around, go outside and shout to the sky that this evil man is finally dead and gone.
But there is another part of my that is truly sad. I don’t believe in the death penalty and I always figured he would have a trial, just as Saddam Hussein did. Perhaps I could have processed the news better that way.
There’s no time for that. Bin Laden is dead and I heard about via social media. Twitter is all a buzz with reactions and retweets while we are still waiting to hear from President Obama.
While I truly believe in eliminating threats for the greater good, I cannot presume to know yet how Bin Laden ended up dead. But that’s not really the point. The point is that he is dead and I have do decide how I feel about that.
As a Catholic Christian I have always prayed for those who have served, continue to serve, and all affected by the War on Terror around the world.
As a veteran, I would have just as soon turned him loose on the streets of New York City and let the people exact some homegrown justice.
Everyday I live with what has been such a difficult time in recent world history.
Nine years, seven months, and twenty days I have been waiting for this news and now all I want to do is cry. The world will never be the same and I continue to pray for peace.
But what I most want to get across is that, while his death does impact world political policy, I pray that this man’s death not be used for personal or political gain, but to remember that we must always work toward peace. Does that mean each anniversary of 9/11 is going to be easier? No. I avoid all documentaries and such related to 9/11 because it has taken a toll on me mentally. Meet with someone on active duty or a veteran of the past 10 years and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.
And while this article, though slightly cathartic, is only one person’s view on the matter, I think you will find that many people are truly conflicted, whether or not they admit it.
I ask from you, the reader, that you remember what veterans and those are currently serving have put on the line as a sacrifice so that everyone else can continue to enjoy the freedom so many have fought for.
I’m still conflicted, but I’ll work through it. As a country, we need to work through it. Today’s event serves as a reminder that we must continue to come together in order to work in unity toward a common goal of peace and justice. Bin Laden’s death reminds me that it is okay to be angry about the circumstances, but that it is my job, as an individual, to decide how I respond to these circumstances.
How do I do this? By going back to my faith and using that to ground me. I hope you are able to do the same.
May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.