FORT RILEY, Kan. — For some members of the military, the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, inspired them to serve their country in any way they could.
For several soldiers at Fort Riley in Kansas, that day would change the trajectory of their lives.
Lt. Col. Alex Tignor was on his first day of advanced individual training in the Army on the morning of 9/11. He was waiting for class to begin when the attacks happened.
Tignor said that day would define the next 20 years.
"I would deploy three different times to Iraq for the war on terror," Tignor said.
Tignor said the 20th anniversary of 9/11 makes him remember the fellow service members and friends he lost in the war.
"They fought for their country, they fought for America, and I remember them with honor and integrity that they all had," Tignor said.
For some service members, like Sgt. 1st Class Chris Bridson, it was the attack on 9/11 that inspired him to enlist.
Bridson had just come to the U.S. from the United Kingdom and was going through the immigration process to receive his citizenship when the U.S. was attacked.
"I was just thinking to myself, 'Well this is serious. Somebody has just attacked the United States of America, one of the strongest nations in the world,'" Bridson said.
Bridson decided he wanted to give back to the country that had just given him citizenship. He enlisted as a field artillery man assisting with rocket launches and would deploy four times, three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
Bridson said the camaraderie among soldiers is like nothing else.
"You get this bond with combat arms soldiers that it’s hard to explain, it’s like they are your family away from your family," Bridson said.
Bridson hopes the 20th anniversary of 9/11 will remind Americans to be grateful for what they have.
"Just take a minute when you think you're having a bad day and it’s rough and everything like that, just think about the ultimate sacrifice that so many people have made, including firefighters, police officers, paramedics," Bridson said.
Staff Sgt. Eric Johnson also enlisted after the attacks.
"It’s something you’ll never forget whether you were alive or maybe you lost someone," Johnson said.
With the recent fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Johnson said he hopes community members will reach out to men and women who served in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
"Reach out to someone, it never hurts to sit there and ask how are you doing, do you need to talk," Johnson said.
All three soldiers say simple communication can make a world of difference to those who served.
"One thing I think about is how many friends I’ve lost to behavioral health issues that have taken their own lives," Bridson said. "It’s been a total of about 12 since the first time we went over."
No matter the reason, all three service members say they enlisted to find purpose.
"I was doing well in life, but I didn’t feel like after 20 years I would have a story to tell and that my life would truly have purpose, so I joined the military to find that and I think I did find that," Tignor said.