COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — For many Americans, the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 were a call to action. During the year that followed, more than 181,000 men and women enlisted in our nation's military. Nearly 73,000 more joined the reserves.
For some of our active duty personnel serving in Colorado Springs that path began in high school. The Mitchell High School JROTC program began in 2001. When the attacks occurred, they forever changed the program and the students who were a part of it.
The Colorado Springs community would learn in the days that followed that United Airlines flight attendant Kathryn Yancey LaBorie, a 1975 graduate of Mitchell, was one of the crew aboard the second plane to hit the twin towers. Every year since, the JROTC program has held a memorial in honor of her and the others Americans killed that day.
"I remember very distinctly, I was in, walking to Mr. Grant's AP history class," said Air Force Maj. Ester Kim who was a freshman at the time.
"I was in my 9th Grade English class and they wheeled in the TV and we just watched it," added US Space Force Major Bryan Sanchez.
Sanchez credits JROTC instructor Lt. Colonel Keith Woodfork with influencing his choice to serve.
"He was definitely a mentor for me. When I graduated from the Academy, he was the person who commissioned me."
Kim's family immigrated to the US from Korea. She said she knew at a young age that she was going to pursue a career in the military. She joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps while in college at Colorado State University. Kim said her choice took on more gravity after 9/11 knowing she's being joining the service as the country was at war.
"I think 9/11 really did impact and show the realities of the costs that those opportunities bring forth," Kim said.
Fort the past 20 years, the men and women of America's armed forces have fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for multiple years at the same time. That service is comprised of an all-volunteer force.
"We've been able to do a war for 20 years without a draft and I think that's remarkable," said Gen. James Dickinson, Commander of US Space Command.
"I think we have a generation that has grown up that understands service to our country, selfless service to our nation, and I think that is powerful, at least in my opinion."
It was that continued selfless service that former president George W Bush wanted Americans to remember and appreciate this weekend.
"You have been a force for good in the world and nothing that has followed, nothing, can tarnish your honor or diminish your accomplishments," he said during prepared remarks at the September 11th memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.