CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001 sparked a period of intense patriotism which inspired many young Americans to join the military.
9/11 had the same impact on many early Millennials that Pearl Harbor had on the Greatest Generation. In the weeks that followed the attacks, thousands enlisted in the military.
The twentieth anniversary of that dark day. Has many of those veterans remembering why they joined up.
“At first when they said a plane had crashed into the Trade Center, I was thinking on local terms,” said “Irma”, a veteran.
When she saw a television, Irma realized the “Trade Center" she was hearing about wasn't the one in Corpus Christi, but rather the World Trade Center in New York City.
“It wasn’t until then that I really understood what was happening, that it was a terrorist attack,” she said.
Working as a delivery driver, Irma spent the day thinking about what she could do. She considered becoming a firefighter or a nurse. She ultimately decided to join the U.S. Air Force.
She wasn't alone.
According to the Department of Defense, 181,510 people enlisted on active duty in the 12 months immediately following the attacks; close to another 73,000 joined the reserves. Those numbers have steadily slipped ever since.
“Jan 2, 2002,” said Irma, remembering the day she left for Basic Training.
Irma worked in intelligence and served six years, but never deployed.
“That’s something that shocks a lot of people,” she said. “You were active from 2002-2008 and you never deployed.”
Irma asked we not tell you her last name or show you her face because she's joining back up, this time as an officer. While she's not sure where her second stint will lead her, there is one thing Irma is certain of.
“Whether I go deployed abroad or stay stateside, I will definitely be having a hand in preventing the next terrorist attack,” she said.
Irma says she just about has her paperwork in order to re-join the Air Force. She's hoping she can leave Jan. 2, 20 years to the day when she shipped out the first time.