It started just like any other day

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christian Chavez
  • 612th Air and Space Operations Center Reports Cell Technician
It was June 2001 and there I was walking down the stage ready to receive my diploma. I was excited to graduate just like anyone else, but deep down inside I was scared. I didn't have any plans as to what I was going to do now; here comes the real world.

Many of my friends joined the armed forces or went to college, but I decided to hit the workforce. I was fortunate enough to get a great job working with Work Source. A non-profit orgainiztion that helps young men and women find jobs or go to school in downtown Houston, Texas. The pay was great, as well as the hours. I was content with what I was doing, I was a young man making money and I felt like things were going my way. What could go wrong?

It started just like any other day, I was driving to work on Sept. 11, 2001 and it was only Tuesday. An hour after I started my shift, my supervisor called for a meeting and announced a plane had collided with one of the World Trade Centers. I really didn't know what to think as the reports were still in their infancy. Then another plane hit the other WTC and this is when my supervisor made another announcement, this was a terrorist attack. With Houston being the fourth largest city in America, our supervisor feared another attack could happen here. We worked next to a federal building and our supervisor thought they could attack there, so he allowed us to leave.

I went home, turned on the TV and I was glued. Trying to figure out what happen or how this could happen. I watched the news day after day and felt disgusted with all of it. After that day, my life wasn't the same.

I felt I had to do something, I felt there was more to life and I wanted to do something bigger than myself. I used to go to a Youth Center and talked to one of the Youth leader's. I remembered him telling me stories about his career in the Army and his time spent in Kosovo and Iraq. I talked to him about my decision to join the military. He told me to really think about it, because it's a big decision and commitment.

A year passed and I still kept up with the events of 9/11. I kept on thinking about joining the armed forces.

It was March 2003 and that's when it happened, the war in Iraq. I made my decision, I'm joining and I'm going to do my part! I'm a big history buff and love watching war movies and documentaries. It felt like WWII and young men and women were going to the local recruiting office ready to join. Originally, after talking to my Youth Leader and mentor I wanted to go Army infantry, but I remember till this day what he told me, "You have more power in your head than your trigger finger." That's when he told me to look into the Air Force. He told me that the Air Force would be a better fit for me.

I went to my local recruiter's office excited and ready to leave for basic military training, but there was one setback, I was 60 pounds overweight. I told myself, this is something that's under my control and I am not going to let it hold me back. I've never been more motivated in my life! I ended up losing all the weight in four and a half months. All it took was hard work and dedication and I was ready.

I went to the Military Entrance Processing Station, completed my physical and the job liaison asked me what I wanted to do. I told him anything that would get me to Iraq. I selected my jobs and was excited to leave. A month passed and I received a call from my recruiter telling me, "Congrats, I have a job for you."

At that point I didn't care what job was, all I knew was, I was ready to leave and do my part in the war and for my country. He told me, "You got your number one pick so be ready." I told him "I was ready the day I walked in your office!"

And it starts, May 2006 I am on a plane to Iraq. I was ready; here I come ready to do my part. I worked for an air control squadron and our mission was to provide combat and control of joint air operations by conducting surveillance identification, weapons control, battle management and theater communications data link.

I never felt more alive, I was really there. There were some scary moments, but I knew what I got myself into.

When we came back home I felt empty, I was ready to go back. Our commander announced it was our time to deploy again. We were only state side for three or four months before we returned to Iraq. In Iraq I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was doing my job and making a difference. The adrenaline kicked in! Fortunately, for me I went back a third time and wouldn't have it any other way!

September 11, 2001 was a life changing day for me in every way imaginable. I was so heavily moved by this traumatic event that all I could think about was, "Why not ME!" I was given the opportunity to serve and wouldn't have it any other way. This day will be forever engrained in my heart to serve and do my part for my country.
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