9/11 changed local veteran’s direction in life

Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Arnold
Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Arnold

By Caitlin Bittner

Twelve years ago, what seemed like an ordinary day where people got dressed, ate breakfast, went to school and went to work turned into a nightmare that has impacted our country. With the first plane’s impact at 8:46 a.m., shock waves were sent through the United States.

For days, we mourned the pain and suffering of the victims and their families, all the while holding out hope and rejoicing when someone was pulled from the wreckage still alive.

Approximately 2,977 people from 90 different nations were killed as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight United 93. According to a New York Times article from July 5, victims of the attacks are still being identified.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the United States officially declared war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. With a war declared, soldiers were called to the line of duty, one of those soldiers being Prairie du Chien resident Command Sergeant Major Joel Arnold of the 34th Infantry Division, headquartered in Rosemount, Minn.

“September 11 changed my direction in life; it was a recommitment to the service,” said Arnold, who added that he also decided to receive more specialized training as a result.

Like many other military families, the call to defend the United States also meant that Arnold would be spending a good deal of time away from his family, including his wife Dawn and three children Dustin, Cory and Cindy, who have all since grown up. “It’s a big sacrifice for all of us—the troops and their families. I’m honored for the opportunity to serve and so proud of my family; it’s tough, but this is what we signed up for,” said Arnold.

Since 2001, Arnold has been deployed three times. In 2003, he mobilized and deployed to Sinai, Egypt, where he was part of the Multinational Force and Observer (MFO) mission. Afterward, Arnold was again deployed from 2005 to 2007 to Iraq, for a historically long deployment of 18 months. For that mission, his infantry was in charge of security for routes. Arnold’s most recent deployment came in 2010, when he and his infantry were sent to Afghanistan in order to take charge of the security for four provinces. Arnold returned home in August of 2011.

When commenting on the recent efforts, Arnold simply said that things are different. “The troops are very dedicated and disciplined; they’re out there doing their job and people should be proud.”

Arnold also said that despite what people may have been thinking of the war, it never changed how they felt about the troops. “It’s amazing to think of the tremendous amount of support; it’s incredible how people feel about the soldiers. They stand behind us and support us, and [we] can feel that 8,000 miles away,” Arnold said.

A memorial on the former site of the World Trade Center is set to open in the spring of 2014.

A full timeline of the events of 9/11 and the recovery afterward can be found at www.timeline.national911memorial.org/.

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