National Guard Soldier recalls Sept. 11, marches on for Third Army
August 31, 2011
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Aug. 31, 2011 -- Sept. 11, 2011. Everyone remembers where they were that fateful day when terrorists hijacked three airplanes destroying the twin towers, part of the Pentagon and so many innocent lives.
As citizens of our great nation came together that day, for one serving in the New Hampshire National Guard, the military took on an even greater meaning.
"I lost a close family friend during Sept. 11," said Lt. Col. Mark W. Leahey, Deputy Commander for the 197th Fires Brigade, New Hampshire National Guard, and native of Rochester, N.H. "He was our next-door neighbor growing up outside of the Boston area."
Almost a decade later, Leahey still remembers his fallen comrade and feels the pride of serving each and every day as an Army Reservist alongside Third Army, he stated.
"I proudly serve with him in mind," Leahey said. "It motivates me to do the best I can, especially while I'm here deployed."
Leahey recalls exactly where he was that morning and how his life changed that ill-fated day, he said.
"At the time, I was a pharmaceutical sales representative coming out of a laboratory with a client," he added. "I heard people screaming in the cafeteria nearby. As I rounded the corner with my client, I witnessed the second plane hit."
"My client looked at me and asked what does this mean for me. I laughed it off and told her not much," said Leahey. "I was amazed by the coordination the terrorists had, and I honestly thought this was going to badly hurt our aviation industry."
Within hours, Leahey was attached as an operations staff member for an artillery battalion within the New Hampshire National Guard.
"Very quickly after the attacks, we had a conference call," Leahey stated. "We had to organize additional security across the state."
Since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Leahey has mobilized in 2004 with the New Hampshire National Guard and again in 2009 with the Center for Army Lessons Learned as an embedded analyst with the 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division.
"I observed both friendly and enemy tactics, techniques and procedures," said Leahey. "I reported them back to the CALL headquarters, where the information was then forwarded to the Pentagon."
Now on his third deployment with the New Hampshire National Guard, Leahey stated he still serves as proudly alongside Third Army as when he did entering the Army in 1986 as an active-duty soldier.
"I'm very proud," he added. "The reason being is, I do believe there are bad people out there who wish our country harm. I'm saddened to think that our fellow Americans on Sept. 11 had to make a choice to either burn alive or leap to their deaths."
After serving for more than 24 years, Leahey said he's very proud of both the National Guard and Army Reserves for stepping up and accomplishing the Third Army mission, as well as countless other overseas endeavors.
"The National Guard and all Army Reservists have grown from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve," added Leahey. "We help to fill in the gaps of prolonged military endeavors."
"This is a watershed moment for the Army Reserves and National Guard," Leahey said. "During these long, protracted military operations we have lost many, many soldiers. We have shown that we are very capable in accomplishing all missions assigned to us."
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, 197th FiB and a native of New Durham, N.H., said that Leahey, her first line supervisor, has inspired her from the first time the two met.
"Lt. Col. Leahey's work ethic is impeccable," said Morgan. "He seeks to understand any issue brought forth and always considers any advice I may have as the equal opportunity adviser."
"His professionalism and can do attitude is reflective of his success in completing any mission assigned," she stated. "His dedication to a command climate free of discrimination, harassment and toxic leadership has inspired me. He loves his country and is willing to make the hard decisions to lead his troops and effectively defeat the enemy."
The key behind Leahey's drive and motivation lies in his family's support, he said. Through his wife and two children, Leahey is able to accomplish the mission at hand.
"My family is very proud," stated Leahey. "I have tremendous respect for all military families, as they truly have served our country. My family wishes I was home; however, they know duty calls."
"We're deployed here for a reason," he said. "Our national strategy and policy will prevent a future Sept. 11."
With soldiers like Leahey within its ranks, Third Army's commitment to providing leadership for soldiers, the strength of our nation, has helped pave the way for the U.S. Army to be fully mission capable, ready to sustain the fight, and prepared to shape future military endeavors.