When did you serve in the Army and in which division?
Joe: “We were privates together in 21 Infantry in the ‘90s, back when it was out of Ft. Wainwright in Alaska. I was in before 9/11.”
Jonathan: “I served from 94 to ‘99, then I came back in 2002.”
Why did you decide to re-enlist?
Jonathan: “One, I missed the camaraderie of the Army.
Two, Sept. 1th had just happened and I was feeling extra-patriotic. Black Hawk Down just came out — it was the first movie that used stuff I was accustomed to when I was in the Army, So, it was a culmination of emotional feelings and I was like, ‘Okay. I’ll go.” I was in Iraq the following year.”
Why did you make the trip here this Memorial Day weekend??
Joe: “We’re having a paver dedication ceremony for NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer] form our company up in Alaska.”
Have you visited any of the other U.S. military memorial sites, such as Gettysburg, World War II, or Vietnam?
Jonathan: “I’ve been to the [Vietnam Veterans Memorial] Wall in Washington, D.C.”
Joe: “Been down to D.C. and seen the Wall but haven’t been to the World War II Memorial yet.”
What does it feel like coming here?
Joe: “I haven’t been here in 25 years and a couple of days. *laughs * It’s definitely changed.
Jonathan: “For me, it feels like a second home. I came here for basic training, I came here for all m NCOS’s. I was a drill sergeant here. I keep returning to this place. So, Columbus has always felt like home.
And this is basically an homage to our MOS — Military Occupational Specialty, our job — as infantrymen. This is sacred ground. This is our place.”
What part of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial site has the biggest impact on you?
Both: “The Twin Towers.”
Editor’s note: This representation of the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11 includes a 13′ steel beam from World Trade Center Tower 1 that was presented to Fort Benning by NYC Firefighters.
How do you feel about the Global War on Terrorism’s conclusion? Or if it’s even over yet?
Joe: “I have no opinion on that one.”
What do you think about the way most Americans observe Memorial Day?
Jonathan: “Honestly, I think there’s confusion on the difference between Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Armed Forces Day. We’re alive so when I get the ‘Thank you’ on Memorial Day, I understand the sentiment but it seems like the average American doesn’t know the difference.
Veteran’s Day is for people who have served and are no longer with us. Memorial Day is for everyone no longer with us who served. And Armed Forces Day is for people currently serving.”
Joe: “It’s people who have never done this job, who never served, that probably don’t think about it, because they weren’t there and they don’t know people who passed away in the line of duty.”
Hometown: Joe: Rochester, New York
Jonathan: “I’m originally from Maryland but just retired last week from Ft. Dix, New Jersey.”
Rank at Retirement: Joe: Private First Class
Jonathan: Sergeant First Class
Favorite post ever stationed at: Jonathan: “I love Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I love the community out there; I love the mountain air. I could live out there but all my family is on the East Coast.”
Joe: “I’ve only been stationed at Wainwright. *laughs* It stays cold up there.”
Best Memory from Army Service: Jonathan: “Watching people under me develop into leaders. That for me is a sense of accomplishment that I watched somebody start out as nothing, become somebody that can actually lead people in our job.”
Worst Memory from Army Service: Joe: “80 below zero getting on a helicopter.”
Jonathan: “We’ve had up to 100 negative then in Iraq with a positive 154 temp. So maybe the weather?”
Best Lesson Army Teaches for Civilian Life: Jonathan: “Adaptability. The ability to roll with the punches — because no matter what somebody says, I’ve faced a lot worse.”
Joe: “Accountability. Accept responsibility for yourself and don’t blame other people. Whatever happens, you played a part in it. It’s something I think the world is lacking now.”