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Tue September 13, 2011
Voices from the Military's 9/11 Generation
By Sylvia Maria Gross and Kayla Regan
KANSAS CITY, MO – People who've served in the military in the past ten years are considered part of the 9/11 generation. This generation is made up of more than five million people who have served in active, guard and reserve units. This is the first time since the Revolutionary War that the United States has engaged in sustained conflicts with an all-volunteer military.
Ten years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 we spoke with some local people-- Tiffany Birmingham , Jacob Tanner , Bryan Meyer and Christopher Hoffman -- who signed up because of the attacks, or whose service changed dramatically in a time of war.
Tiffany Birmingham, president of Veteran's Success Center at Penn Valley College, is a native of the Kansas City, Mo. When the attacks of September 11 happened, she was a freshman in high school at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy.
"Why should we sit here when other people have to risk their lives for our freedom?" she remembers thinking in the weeks that followed.
She began military training her junior year of high school. While completing an air assault training course just days before deployment, Birmingham sustained major injuries to her foot, leg and hip. She spent approximately two years regaining her mobility, and was eventually honorably disharged. Now, with a new mission, she strives to make sure veterans take care of their mind and body. She is studying to be a nurse and hopes to work in a Veterans Affairs hospital.
Bryan Meyer, 28, grew up in Mission Hills, Kan. He was initially dead set against joining the military, but changed his mind after driving his best friend to the recruiters office for a year. Meyer was in boot camp when the twin towers went down on September 11.
"If boot camp can be more serious, it became more serious," Meyer says.
He remembers many scared recruits tried to leave, frightened by the possibility of deployment.
"For me, I didn't mind," he says, "it would be like joining the Boys Scouts and then being upset when they took me camping. You know that that's a possibility."
Although he originally wanted to grow up to be a policeman, like his dad, Meyer is now studying law at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He said he hopes to use both his formal education skills and the skills he learned in the military to be civically active in his community.
Chaplain Jacob Tanner, 40th MP Battalion, is from St. Joseph, Mo. His plan to work in a small church changed in the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
"I felt like, you know, the small church doesn't need me but soldiers going over to Iraq and Afghanistan, that's where I could really make a difference," he says.
In 2004, he joined the army as an assistant chaplain. Now with a family of three, Tanner says he plans to stay in the military for the next 30 years, or as long as they want him around.
Sergeant Christopher Hoffman is a Human Resources specialist working for the 165th Military Police Company. He grew up in Fairmont, Minn. Ten years ago, he was an overweight student focused on video games. When he heard about the terrorist attacks of September 11, he decided to turn his life around and join the army. He visited a recruiter, who told him he would have to lose weight before joining the army. He dropped out of school, moved back home,started running five days a week and watched what he ate. He lost over a hundred pounds in a year and a half and shortly after joined the army.
"Never in a million years when I was growing up or going through high school as the bullies would pick on me would I think that I would one day be in the army," Hoffman says.
He is now expecting his first child with his wife, Heather.