Enlistments soared post 9/11
Angel and Don Wilson were dropping off their daughter at day care in Bellevue, Neb., when terrorists struck the nation on that dreadful day 10 years ago.
Although Angel Wilson had left the military a year before, her husband was still active duty. At the time, the family was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, where President George Bush went on the day of the attacks.
“We went in (to the base), and I asked if they needed any help,” said Angel Wilson, who eventually moved her family to Grand Junction when her husband retired in 2007. “They said, ‘Can you take the list of spouses and their numbers and call everybody?’ Then the base went into lockdown, and President Bush came to Offutt on that day because of the bunkers and the security there.”
The Wilsons weren’t the only ones who wanted to do more immediately after the attacks. As a direct result, the military saw enlistments soar, according to Department of Defense recruitment records.
In the years since, enlistments have continued, and eventually included the Wilsons’ twin sons, who joined the Marine Corps earlier this year.
Though she officially was out of the service by the time of the attacks, Angel Wilson tried to get the Air Force to take her back despite health problems from her service in the first Persian Gulf War. She and her husband both are veterans of that war, spending much of their military careers working on spy planes.
The Air Force turned her down.
“I tried my damnedest to get back in,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, heck no,’ at the attacks, and the boys saw that. They didn’t necessarily like me being deployed again, but they understood my drive and my commitment.”
Though the boys were only 8 years old at the time, the Wilsons’ two sons, Micheal and RJ Hakes, were inspired to enlist.
The fraternal twins completed their high school requirements early, then left for Marine boot camp in February, returning briefly in May to graduate with the rest of their class at Fruita Monument High School.
Micheal is in Pensacola, Fla., taking courses in avionics, while his brother is in security forces training at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Grand Junction residents Pat and Jim Brewster also remember that day, and similarly have seen a child, or in their case, a grandchild enlist in the armed forces.
Pat Brewster was a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital, and her husband worked for the U.S. Postal Service, when the planes hit. Their grandson, Kyle Howell, followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, joining the Marines.
“If I could have gone back into the military at that point in time, I would have,” said Pat Brewster, who also served.
Howell, 20, is a lance corporal stationed on Okinawa, Japan. He has volunteered to go to Afghanistan as soon as possible.
Fruita resident Anita Young also has two boys in the service, including one who did top-secret work for the Air Force.
“To this day, I don’t know where all he went,” Young said of son Steve. “He was two months on, two months off over there for a number of years. It was a very nerve-wracking time.”
After graduating from Fruita Monument in 2005, brother Randy followed Steve’s lead, spending time on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf as a hydraulics mechanic. He, too, hopes to return.
“When you go through it as a spouse, it’s not the same when your children are out there,” Young said. “You hold your little family together and wait for your spouse to get back. When your children are out there, your heart’s out there.”