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It is curious that some characters are tested by peace, some by praise, and some by war. And more curious still that the crucibles of any given age should vary so much from one to the next. 

Perhaps there has been no more heated modern crucible than the attacks of 9/11. The heat from the planes that tore through the Twin Towers seared into the consciousness of an entire generation. 

They smithed and smelted the American people. But from the heat, from the ashes, heroes were alloyed. After the 9/11 attacks military recruitment skyrocketed. Men and women, American citizens left their offices, applications to college, their loves, and their lives to protect their fellow countrymen.

“In the days and months that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many brave Americans were moved to enlist in the Armed Forces to selflessly protect the United States, and its freedoms and ideals. In the year after 9/11, more people enlisted in the military than in any year since,” according to “In the first full recruitment after the attacks, 181,510 Americans joined the ranks of active duty  service and 72,908 enlisted in the reserves.”

These soldier-heroes arose to fight for American freedom, but they stayed to bring peace to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

They enlisted, crossed oceans, and fought for decades to ensure that some of the greatest evil the world has ever seen would never again cross our shores. But our soldiers also worked to rebuild– schools, hospitals, food, medical aid– American soldiers helped provide billions of dollars in relief.

American soldiers were and are the greatest instruments of aid and supplies to the very countries that they were sent to defend against. Decades later, they still serve to protect and preserve against US enemies, but they also work to stabilize and bring peace.

As a people we followed in the footsteps of our forefathers– who reconstructed the South after the Civil War. And they saved Japan and Germany from starvation and rebuilt the war-torn countries of Europe after WWII. 

When the towers fell, American soldiers rose up. And their work is not in vain. We can be proud of them and be proud of ourselves as a people for the courage we’ve sown and the mercy we’ve rendered in the Middle East and down through history. 

Of our soldiers, the same may be said as the famed eulogy that was spoken over General George Washington, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”