Gunnery Sgt. Lenny Vasquez, Station Equal Opportunity Adviser
“I was Cpl. Vasquez at the time and I was coaching at the pistol range at New River. When I first heard about the news my gunnery sergeant had the radio and immediately made everybody stop what they were doing. He had everyone get into formation on the flightline. After the formation they called us in and told us to get our gas masks, flak jackets and all of our gear because we were on standby. Our threat condition on base went up. At the time when we got called in they had a TV in the hanger and we actually were there when they hit the second one. We watched the second plane hit. It was shocking. Everybody was really quiet, obviously in shock of what we just saw. At that time you know at the time that I was in, the Marines from the Gulf War would tell us war stories and we knew that conflict was coming. I absolutely wanted to stay after this. It was the solidarity. You have that feeling of ‘hey you know what I’m in the Marine Corps and this is what we joined for’. But at the same time we were sad because those were people, families, kids and innocent civilians being killed because of a coward enemy.
I was in my second grade classroom when it happened. My teacher got a call on the phone and immediately dropped everything to turn on the TV. She told us all to be quiet and to watch. I didn’t really know what was going on; it was just chaos. They didn’t send us home immediately not until a few hours. I know I was very young when it happened but I know somewhere in there is one of the reasons why I joined. We have been fighting this war ever since and when it came time I just felt I needed to do my duty.
The first time I heard about it I was in sixth grade at school in my social studies class. My teacher started talking about it and at the time I didn’t realize how serious the situation was, even though I saw the look on her face, it really didn’t hit me until I got home and I saw it on TV. It really affected me. That night when my mom was putting me to sleep she said that there was a huge chance that we were going to war and it hit home. I wasn’t used to war or anything, unlike now we are kind of accustomed to it, but even when I was so young I felt it. It had played a huge part in my decision to join the Corps.
I was a junior in high school and I remember seeing the twin towers. One of them had already had a plane flown into it and I thought it was a movie. Then I went and sat at a class and they told us all that it was a terrorist attack and cut everybody out from school. A year later I joined the Corps. I was pretty angry at the time, I remember. I didn’t understand why people had so much hate for us because I wasn’t really knowledgeable about the Muslim religion and Jihad until after I joined and got more familiar with it. I was very confused about why they would want to do that.
During 9/11 I was stationed at Norfolk in Virginia. I had just gotten out of deployment and a friend of mine called me so I rushed to turn on the TV. When the first plane hit I thought it was a mistake at first and then the second plane came around and that’s when I realized what happened. We were immediately called back to base and preparations were made for our next deployment. I was very angry about what happened. It’s a big tragedy and it hits home, literally hits home. The incident made me want to make the military a full career. It really affected me and changed my life.