Seasoned Soldiers reflect on 9/11
September 9, 2013
- For a full listing of BMC 9/11 events, see the bottom of this article.
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- By his own account, Chaplain (Maj.) Stanley Copeland probably wouldn't have joined the Army. The draft in 1969 propelled him into basic training and soon thereafter shipped him off to Vietnam, where he remained for 13 months and five days.
In the years leading up to 9/11 and the subsequent conflicts that followed, that was all the protracted time of war Copeland experienced in his decadeslong career.
"We became a different Army after that day," said Copeland. "Our mission changed immediately."
Being a Soldier (with stints as a civilian in-between) for four decades, Copeland has seen the obvious changes that come along with time, but it was that fateful day, he said, which transformed the Army into what it is today.
Working as a family life chaplain at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., on Sept. 11, 2001, Copeland watched with the rest of the world as two planes crashed into the Twin Towers.
Community members came to see him immediately.
"They were angry, they were upset," said Copeland. "Soldiers were in shock. It was obvious America was not going to let that go."
Like Copeland, 1st Sgt. James Yuras, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG Grafenwoehr, spent more than a decade in what he called "a peacetime Army."
On 9/11 he was working in a small town in Ohio as an Army recruiter. He, too, watched in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed.
"That changed everything," said Yuras. "Many people questioned what would happen next."
Yuras said at first people began to panic.
"We train to go to combat and, if asked, we'll go, but we don't really want to go. I'm going to go do my job because that's what is required of me. I swore to defend and support the Constitution and I will do just that."
But patriotic impulses soon spearheaded their call of duty.
"We had a purpose," said Yuras. "In the end, we will always fight for our country."
Copeland, Yuras and Sgt. 1st Class Scott MacFarlane, a careerist currently attached to the 69th Signal Battalion, each revealed a cornucopia of reasons for joining the Army, separated by each changing decade.
In the '60s and '70s there was the draft; in the '80s many joined to get an education, while the '90s, brought financial stability for those who joined. However, after 9/11, the reasons changed.
"We now have a lot of young patriotic Soldiers who joined for the right reason - to serve their country," said Copeland. "And serving our country is why many of us old guys stayed in. It felt right to be a part of the Army."
"Now our mission is more understood, and our Soldiers have been training solely for this particular fight," he said. "For many young Soldiers, this is all they know. They may never know what the Army is like in peacetime, so they train and they fight."
Copeland expanded on MacFarlane's sentiments.
"Soldiers above all don't want to fight," said Copeland. "But when you go to war, it's like being in a bar brawl, there is only one choice and that's to win."
To honor those lost on 9/11, the BMC will host a series of events on this year's Patriot Day, Sept. 11:
5K Freedom Run: 6 a.m. at the Tower Barracks Physical Fitness Center.
Prayer Breakfast: 8 a.m. at the Rose Barracks Chapel, Bldg. 218.
Memorial/Wreath Laying Ceremony: 2:30 p.m. in front of Bldg. 623 in Tower Barracks. Moment of Silence: 2:46 p.m. The entire BMC will observe a moment of silence at the time the first plane flew into the World Trade Center.
Sept. 12: "Ride to Remember" begins at 6 a.m. at the Tower Barracks PX overflow lot. Members of the Tower and Rose Barracks communities are welcome to bring their bicycles for a morning bike ride. The uniform for Soldiers is summer PT with jacket, reflective belt and helmet.