How 9/11 influenced National Guard members' service
September 8, 2006
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 8, 2006) - The 9/11 terrorist attacks five years ago had a profound effect on men and women serving in the National Guard. These are three of their stories:
Cpl. Michael Wareham - Still more to do
Michael Wareham was getting ready for work in Tulare, Calif., that Tuesday morning when he and his wife saw the reports on Good Morning America. It was Sept. 11, 2001, and someone had attacked his homeland.
He did not go to work as a bus driver that day. He stayed home, glued to the news reports and images on his television.
Wareham had been a military policeman in the Army during the end of the first Gulf War, but he never got to the Gulf.
"I missed Desert Storm," Wareham said. "I didn't do everything that needed to be done. I wanted to do something meaningful. "
He joined the California Army National Guard three months after 9/11 as an infantryman. Since then, he's had several chances to do something meaningful.
Wareham went to Iraq attached to Alpha Company of the Washington Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 185th Armor, in November 2003. He was wounded twice.
First a mortar attack by insurgents against his unit's base camp killed his battle buddy and peppered the left side of Wareham's body with shrapnel.
Then his unit was escorting a convoy of medical personnel when they came under fire from a blacked out vehicle that was following the convoy. Wareham was the gunner on the tail vehicle. An AK-47 bullet ricocheted off his vehicle's armor plating and into his left shoulder.
He brought home his two Purple Hearts in February 2005.
The following August, Wareham and other members of the California Guard went to New Orleans to help pick up the pieces after Hurricane Katrina.
Wareham spent days searching homes, schools and other buildings for victims in the 9th Ward.
"It was a rough deployment, sobering, disheartening and as equally disturbing as the things I saw in combat in Iraq." Wareham said. "Those people needed us down there."
Cpl. Michael Wareham is a member of the 649th Military Police Company. These days he can be found along the Mexican border in Southern California, taking part in Operation Jump Start and helping the Border Patrol stop illegal immigrants from entering this country.
"It's a mission we need to do. We are having an impact down here," said Wareham, who believes he can still do more. "There's even more to be done now," he said. "I got two years left on this enlistment to see what I can get in."
1st Lt. Jude Lau - Compelled to join
Army National Guard 1st Lt. Jude Lau was a 20-year-old cadet senior at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., which has been graduating military officers since 1839, when the terrorists attacked.
He and others in his French class had heard rumors about airplanes crashing into buildings and ran to a television in the Post Exchange after the bell.
Lau said it didn't seem real to him at first. "I couldn't believe it. I thought somebody really messed up," he said.
That night Lau and his fellow cadets sat outside their dormitories and watched the news projected onto bed sheets, hung up like a drive-in theater.
The reality of what had taken place hit him as the images were shown on those sheets. "I was in shock and awe. We are not as safe as we think we are," he said.
Lau was the first member of his Chinese-American family to consider military service, which is a choice VMI graduates must make before accepting their diplomas.
He had already decided to join the Army National Guard after graduating, and the events of Sept. 11 validated that decision. "It compelled me to join," he recalled.
Now he is 25 and an infantry officer in Virginia's 29th Infantry Division. Lau is currently assigned at the National Guard Bureau's Office of the Inspector General.
"I'm still supporting from the sidelines, but I'm ready to jump into the fight as a member of Special Forces," he said. "I've never felt more confident that we will win this fight."
Sgt. Jim Greenhill - Memories of London
"How could I give back'"
That was Army National Guard Sgt. Jim Greenhill's first reaction to the attacks on New York and Washington.
Greenhill knows firsthand the devastation and change that a terrorist attack can cause. As a child growing up in London, an Irish Republican Army bomb went off a block from his front door. "It's really sad American kids will have to grow up with a fear of terrorism," he said.
"9/11 was a wakeup call," Greenhill added.
He came to the United States when he was 19, and it didn't take him long to find a way to give back to his adopted country. Only days after the attack, while driving back home to Colorado from a business trip, he decided to join the armed forces.
He was 37, however, and he was told he was too old for the Marines and Army. But an Army Guard recruiter was able to get Greenhill a waiver for his age, and at 38 he graduated from Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training.
In March 2005 the Army raised the enlistment age to 40 and has since raised it again to 42.
Greenhill started his Guard career as a truck driver. He has been a civilian newspaper reporter since completing college, however, and he became a journalist in the National Guard. He has served for a year in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he worked with Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen. That helped him realize that everybody is contributing to the war against terrorism.
Now 41, Greenhill is serving at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., as a public affairs staff writer.
(Editor's note: This also appears in the September issue of The On Guard.)