Our Duty to Serve in a Post-911 World
Go to triangular compass
Left arrow

Duty to Serve in a Post-9/11 World

Active Military
Active Military
November 6, 2017
Share on Twitter
Share on Facebook
Share on Linkedin
Copy Link

Stay Up to Date on American Grit

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

On September 11, 2001, when United flight 93 went down, the remote Shanksville, PA field where it crashed was not the hijackers’ intended destination for the plane. They had a greater target in mind—Washington, DC—but it was the action taken by the Americans on board that flight who thwarted that plan and sacrificed their already doomed lives to save countless others. The flight was taken over at 9:28 am, and it crashed at 10:03. In 35 minutes, the Americans on board United 93 had transformed themselves from commuters to warriors, called to duty and laying down their lives for their fellow Americans.Not all of us will be called to duty in such a forceful way, but the imperative to action remains the same. When author and speaker Simon Sinek found himself stranded on a base in Afghanistan, service was the choice that kept him sane. With all communications cut off due to rocket attacks, his initial reaction was pure and utter self-centeredness. “I remember I became preoccupied with one thing and one thing only,” he later told Goalcast, “my happiness, my success, not my success, my safety, and my comfort. That’s all I cared about.” Lacking the right visa to get on a plane to Kyrgyzstan, he had no option but to wait it out. It was during this excruciating period of waiting that he came to a new realization: as long as he was stuck, he would make himself useful. So he began to volunteer for any and all tasks he could find, from giving additional talks to taking on menial labor—anything to help and to serve.He eventually made it home in one piece, and he has a lesson to share from his experience:“This is what I learned. I learned that true sense of purpose doesn’t come from what we can do to get. It comes from what we can do for others. That true sense of purpose is the opportunity to serve those who serve others.”Not everyone will be called upon to serve our country in such tangible or heroic ways, but the duty to serve still falls upon each of our shoulders. While not everyone is in a position to quit their job and enlist in the military or seek federal employment, there are other things that we can do—today—to start to make a difference. I reached out to Chris Diaz, Ph.D. candidate and former Navy Corpsman who is the founder of the Action Tank—a revolutionary new take on action-based community service—for suggestions of what anyone can do to start making a difference today:

  • Donate your resources. “Everyone has skills, resources, and talents to contribute to a cause that they believe in,” says Diaz. The Action Tank was conceptualized by a group of friends over lunch as an organization where members donate action to make a maximal impact on a minimal budget. “Whatever skill set that you have,” he explains, “there is a way for you to leverage it to benefit your community and your country. It’s up to you to figure out what that specifically looks like, but in general, it means some form of volunteerism.”
  • Commit to volunteering 2 hours a week. Research has shown that people who donate 2 hours of their time per week—that amounts to around 100 hours a year—live longer, happier, more fulfilling lives. There’s a real and tangible emotional and psychological benefit to service, cites Diaz, who is working towards a Ph.D. in psychology. He references a favorite quote by Pema Chodron: “What you do for yourself, you’re doing for others, and what you do for others, you’re doing for yourself.” No man (or woman) is an island, and we benefit ourselves through the work that we do for others.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]

Rockin' the rollin'

Family members and volunteers help Riko, bowling participant, get a bowling ball rolling during the 13th annual Kadena Special Olympics bowling competition Sept. 16, 2017, at Enagic Bowl, Okinawa. Volunteers from military bases and surrounding communities hosted the community event to build mutual friendships between U.S. and Japanese residents on Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)[/caption]

  • Build social capital. What is social capital? It’s the interconnected web of relationships that distinguished Americans from our European counterparts according to Alexis De Tocqueville, who observed this phenomenon in the early Nineteenth Century. It’s still relevant today, says Diaz, but it’s in danger of being lost in the social media age if we don’t actively preserve it. How? “Make it a point every day to send a note, text, email or—God forbid—an actual letter to someone on your Facebook, LinkedIn, or contact list,” he suggests. “Sending a message to somebody can be worth something to their whole day. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Building a network means building a community, which is what our pioneer ancestors relied upon for survival. It’s this sense of community that enabled the experiment of democracy to work in the first place, suggests Diaz, but it’s in danger of being lost if we don’t actively work to maintain it.
  • Embrace a sense of immediacy. “It’s not every day that you’ll find yourself confronted by terrorists about to fly a plane into DC, but you should strive to live your life with that same type of urgency,” says Diaz, who is also a combat veteran. “There needs to be something that you do right now, as opposed to waiting until the next person does it.” Citing a favorite quote from John F. Kennedy, he reminds us, “There are costs and risks to any program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

--Dr. Alice O. Vitiello, Ph.D.Read more military articles here.

send a letter to congress
Adds section
Next Up
No items found.