Brothers who united to fight for country after 9/11 recount experience
"That moment in history has forever changed my life."
"When I was watching the footage (of the 9/11 attacks) I remember thinking this just got real."
Those were the recollections of two brothers in Springfield to that fateful day 18 years ago when the 9/11 attacks changed the world.
43 year old Jonathan Garard, who owns Grooms Office Environments, spent the 9/11 anniversary on Wednesday moving into a new house with his family of four while his 37 year-old brother Jeremy was working at Evangel where he's an assistant basketball coach.
But two decades ago they were brothers in arms in the Army reserve.
Jeremy had joined just before 9/11 and was among the first wave from Springfield sent overseas.
Jonathan joined after 9/11 and served in the same unit as his brother where they shared the horrors of a conflict that's involved over 2.6 million soldiers, wounding over 50,000 of them and killing over 7,000.
The combined wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken the lives of over 2.6 million people and the scars still remain for those who took part.
"You can't live through war without being impacted or changed," Jonathan said.
"You're trained to go from zero to 100," Jeremy added. "You're trained to literally take the life of a human being. There's a side of life we experience that unless you go to a battlefield you can never relate."
"My wife would look at me and say, 'You're 10,000 miles away!' And I would say, 'Baby, in my mind I am.'"
"There's a real struggled in those relationships because your spouse cannot connect with that," Jeremy said. "There's a huge disconnect."
"You get removed from a family life, immediately sent into an environment you don't wish upon anybody and then you come out of that and they send you right back in to family life," Jonathan explained. "And there's no one around me who understands those things. So you're alone, you feel angry and you have all these things that you wrestle with."
Jeremy would return only to be involved in a skiing accident that broke his back and hips and left him bedridden for six months. But he realized that his military experiences had prepared him for the new challenge.
"It helped me grow as a human being to a much deeper level because it gave me such great perspective," he said.
After a rush of volunteerism immediately after 9/11, military enlistment has waned over the years as war fatigue has set in.
"People now see the wounds of those wars reflected on me and my peers and they're like 'I don't know if I want that,'" Jonathan said. "I understand."
But this band of brothers who's made their sacrifice hopes that others will understand the importance of serving the greater good.
"We live in a generation that lacks respect," Jonathan said. "It's serving something greater than yourself. Life is not about just you as an individual. We have the opportunity to make change but the problem is we're doing it selfishly."
"I tell these (Evangel basketball) players
that the greater the struggle, the greater the victory," Jeremy said.