Updated: August 29, 2021 10:47 PM
Created: August 29, 2021 09:00 PM
For Pat McKuen, Sept. 11, 2001, doesn't feel like 20 years ago.
"That morning, things changed for the world," McKuen said.
The Ashland veteran was serving with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as the Old Guard.
"One of our missions is we are the first line of defense for Washington, D.C. in case of an attack," he said. "And at no point did anybody ever legitimately think there was going to be an attack."
But they trained for it. And when a plane hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, his unit was at a ceremony for some retiring generals.
"They said, 'Stop what you're doing and get back now,'" he remembered.
McKuen was one of the first sent in to begin the search mission. He said they didn't find anybody alive.
"It's one thing to go and fight people who are trying to kill you. It's another thing to go in and get handed garbage bags and to go pick up remains for weeks," he said.
He and the guys in the Charlie Company knew how to be strong and stoic. No one wanted to show weakness. All they could do was fall back on their training.
"We got the mission done. And we completed it," McKuen said. "And at the end, it was something you never talked about."
But 20 years later, the impact is clear. McKuen said some of the guys he served with attempted suicide. Many have gotten divorced or turned to drinking. And they're all over the country now. But they've kept in touch on Facebook. Some of them got together on the 17th anniversary of Sept. 11.
"We said, 'Nobody has to do this alone anymore,'" he said.
They want many more to join their ranks this September.
"We decided with the 20th year anniversary, we need to get these folks out here. We need to get them together to find closure again," McKuen said. "A lot of them have never been back there."
Some of them can't afford it, so McKuen and others are fundraising, hoping to cover the costs for every member of his unit who wants to go back.
"We decided we're stronger as a team than we are as individuals," he said.
He hopes they can find support in a brotherhood who understand what those days were like and how Sept. 11 has changed them forever.
"I know it's changed me," McKuen said. "It's made me so thankful for what we have and so thankful for this country."
To help the Charlie Company get back together, donations are accepted online by clicking here or by mailing checks to:
PO Box 3091
ATTN Charlie Co.
Frederick, MD 21701
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