A Young Marine on a Clear, Blue-sky Day – TM Lankford
That Changed His View of Service & the World Forever
Anxiously awaiting takeoff from St. Louis International for Marine Combat Training, the pilot’s announcement of a delay did not help. I craned my head from the aisle seat and stared out at nothing but open runway and a clear, blue sky. Distant storm? This seemed the only possibility… for about 10 minutes.
Shortly, the pilot informed us of a nation-wide ground down. “If you’ve seen the news in the last forty minutes, you understand why” was his only explanation. Seen the news? I hadn’t. But, being a somewhat intuitive and world-informed guy, I guessed: hijacking.
Yet the scope of my guess lay microscopic under the shadow of events unfolding in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville.
Tensions rose inside the MD-80’s cabin as our patience stretched with our wait on the tarmac. Military personnel, most of us en route to Camp Pendleton, made up eighty percent of the flight roster. Most us remained clueless, frustrated, and unsure of anything happening in the rest of the U.S.
Eventually, we deboarded to catch our first glimpses of the smoldering World Trade Center. The surrealism was undeniable. Die Hard. This looks like a scene from Die Hard not real life. Those first thoughts of those first images burned into my being.
I spent the next days with a fellow Marine also on his way to MCT, who happened to live nearby. We glued ourselves to the news and waited by the phone for some form of military orders on what to do, where to go, next. We came together with the community; the community came together with us. And, over the next few days, weeks, months and intervening years, I came to understand my country and my service to it in a completely different manner.