WESTON, Mo. — Weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the United States went to war in Afghanistan. The lives of more than 2,400 U.S. military personnel were lost. Twenty years later, America's longest war has ended but the sacrifice of many families continues.
On a hot August morning, KSHB 41 News Anchor Lindsay Shively followed Patrick Montgomery while feeding cattle in the hills of Weston. This is where he spends his days, now — at KC Cattle Company, the cattle ranch he started.
“When I’m having a bad day, I’m 100 feet away from coming out here,” he said, choosing the peaceful outdoors over traditional work. “I kind of looked at the whole corporate world and I just decided it wasn’t for me.”
“That transition from the military to civilian life is not easy on anybody," he said.
Montgomery said he joined the military in 2010, but his journey to serve started years before that.
“I still wanted to join the military before 9/11, but that kind of solidified things,” he said.
He was 11 years old on Sept. 11, 2001 and remembers seeing the images of the attacks from his classroom .
“I went home that day. I sat next to my dad on the couch and I remember him saying like, 'This is our Pearl Harbor,' my generation’s Pearl Harbor,” he said.
With that in mind, he made a promise to himself.
"I just remember, you know, going upstairs and making a promise to myself and the powers that be, that if that war was still going on when I was fighting age that I go do my part," Montgomery said.
He didn’t forget the promise he made that day, later serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan with the 1st Ranger Battalion, just like Staff Sgt. Jeremy Katzenberger.
“He was a huge role model for me. I didn’t have any actual brothers growing up so he’s the closest thing I had,” Montgomery said of Katzenberger.
In Colleen Katzenberger's Northland home, you’ll find pictures and mementos of Jeremy's legacy and service throughout. She talks to her son Everett often about Jeremy, her husband and his father.
“Some days sadness wins but most days it’s joy,” she said. “I have to check my anger when Everett gets sad because I just feel so helpless and then I think my initial reaction to that is just anger that I can’t protect my child from this story.”
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Katzenberger was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
“I was down in Kandahar in Afghanistan, that’s the southern province there, and Jeremy was more towards central and you know, he got killed in a firefight,” Montgomery said.
Jeremy was a monumental loss for the family. But Colleen said it wasn't his life onlu that was gone.
“I buried so much more than just my husband — my child was only seven months old, and the idea... just having more kids or growing old with somebody,” she said. “There were so many pieces that just needed rewriting after losing him.”
Montgomery, who is Colleen’s brother, brought Jeremy home.
“I definitely went down a pretty dark path there after he got killed. I lost three more buddies from our battalion within that year afterwards,” he said.
Now, it's been 10 years since losing Jeremy and 20 years since the attacks that changed so much.
“I think I distinctly remember when 9/11 happened. And I teach juniors and seniors in high school now, and they weren’t even born. And when I sit and talk with them about it, it’s very odd because it was such a pivotal moment in my life that for them to not even... They only know about it from the history books,” Colleen said.
“I look back at that day and it changed my life on a course that I could have never, never imagined” Montgomery said.
“Do I wish I still had Jeremy with me every day? Absolutely. But am I so thankful for the men and women that have prevented another massive attack and kept the war away from us? Yeah. And that gratitude runs deep for me," Colleen said.