"We Didn't Know It Was Wrong": Anti-War Veterans of the 9/11 Generation Speak Out
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Less than a month after the September 11 airplane attacks that collapsed the World Trade Centre, the US began its military intervention in Afghanistan.
Less than two years later, in March of 2003, the US military expanded its Middle East mission, invading Iraq.
Governments in both countries were toppled, and a decade after the attacks that were used as a motivating point to start the wars, US troops remain in both countries.
Throughout the past decade, 6,026 US troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many more have been physically wounded, and even more return home with psychological trauma that can become devastating.
Three war veterans who served in the post-9/11 US wars shared their stories with Al Jazeera.
In their own words, they describe the impact of their experiences at war and the personal effects of re-integrating into society.
Andrew Wright, 28. US Marine corporal, 1st Marine division
Deployed Feb 2002 - Oct 2003: Japan, Thailand, Kuwait, Iraq
I went to boot camp in July of 2000 and got to my unit in December of 2000, so I had been in my unit for nine or 10 months when 9/11 happened.
I think at that point I was probably looking forward to the possibility of going to war. I had joined the Marine Corps and I had joined the infantry, and that's what I had trained to do.
But in the build-up to the Iraq war, I thought it was a terrible idea, and it didn't actually make any sense to me, and I considered not going.
What was a deciding factor for me was that we were definitely, severely, undermanned and I looked around and realised – I’m one of the more competent people here.
Looking back on that now, I see that I thought I had a choice between doing the wrong thing and going, but possibly saving the lives of these people that I cared about, or doing the right thing and not going, and possibly further endangering the lives of these people that I care about.
That was definitely not an easy or simple decision.
After I had been in Kuwait for about a month before the actual invasion, I remember that I didn’t feel the young guys were taking things as seriously as they needed to be taking them.
I pulled all my junior marines together, I circled them up and said: "Look, you’re not taking this s--t seriously.
You’re going to repeat after me: I will die in the country of Iraq.” And I just made them say it out loud.
That was definitely one of the memories that sticks out for me – watching grown men cry at having to say they’re going to die and not wanting to say it, not wanting to admit it to themselves, and just making them face that reality, that that’s what they were going to go do – that if they thought otherwise, they weren’t treating it with the respect that it deserved.
It’s easy for me to look back and say ‘oh, they were 18-year-old kids’, and I forget that I was a 20 year old kid at the time. What the f--k did I know?
Often you hear about people needing to dehumanise and hate the enemy to go fight them. I definitely didn’t see it that way or need to see it that way when I was over there. I have no hatred towards you, I have nothing but respect for you, but I’m here doing my job, you’re here doing your job, and I hope do mine better.