Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Quarter of a Million Reasons to Help

As a young man, Adam Schwarze always dreamed of joining the military and becoming a Navy SEAL, like the brave special forces fighters he loved to read about in histories of the Vietnam War. He enlisted in the Marine Corps immediately after completing high school in 2002, compelled to action after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, Adam Schwarze is a SEAL lieutenant, still inspired by the numerous acts of military and civilian bravery during that time.

Some 180,000 American men and women enlisted as active-duty military service members in the wake of 9/11, with an additional 70,000 enlisting in reserve units in the one-year period after the attacks. While individual reasons differed, many new recruits felt impelled to commit to military service because of the horrific scope of the attacks, the ongoing possibility that a similar event could happen again, and their own newly awakened patriotism.

Many had never considered joining the military before. Some were in military families and felt the pull of generations of honorable service. The new servicemembers also included New Yorkers who had personally witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center. Many were simply angry about the vicious nature of the attacks and found a chance to do something. On average, this group was better-educated and came from higher-income households than previous groups. They chose to give up safer and more financially profitable options to defend their country.

The events of 9/11 took some 3,000 lives and left the United States and its people with lingering trauma. Yet that day also brought tens of thousands of new military servicemembers into the fold, dedicated to protecting and defending the Constitution and the rights and freedoms it upholds.