By Cadre Cleve
When I first came on to GORUCK as a Cadre, it was for the New York City 9/11 events in 2015. That opened my eyes to what we do as a company, and even greater as a community, in honor of those we lost back on 11 September 2001. I witnessed the Cadre’s devotion, dedication, and delicacy when presenting these events to the GRTs. It was intense and intimate. All of them were silent professionals who harnessed their rage on the inside from the fire that was ignited back on 11 September 2001. Cadre like Mocha Mike (NYC native) had years of service and experience long before 9/11. He took me under his wing as a younger brother and taught me the ways. He, like myself, like thousands of others, was now personally invested in taking the fight to the enemy back in ‘01. For myself, these GORUCK events brought the faces and the names to my own “why”.
You see for years prior to that, while I served as a Force Reconnaissance Marine in the United States Marine Corps, I would find myself bent over at the waist either in training or on combat deployments with a heavy ass ruck and cradling my rifle asking myself, “Why? Why do I keep doing this to myself?” My answer was always, “for those we lost”. Images would flash across my memory of the attacks on 9/11 and the thousands of innocent victims that lost their lives or someone they loved—children without a parent, a wife without a husband, a husband without a wife, etc. Twenty percent of Americans knew someone who was hurt or killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Even fewer were in a position to go do something about it. So I finished my time in high school and enlisted.
Less than 1% of 1% is in the military and military Special Operations. In 2010, I was finally awarded the opportunity to take the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan. This was my third deployment but first in Afghanistan and I felt like I finally made it where I was supposed to be. Finally, we as a team, platoon, company, and battalion would seek out vengeance for those we lost on that fateful day back on 9/11. USMC General / Secretary of Defense James Mattis was quoted saying “1st Reconnaissance Battalion was the most kinetic unit in Afghanistan at that time, since the United States committed to inserting ground forces on the deck.” Communications that were intercepted by Taliban commanders were overheard telling their subordinate leaders “Stay away from the Black Diamonds on the hillside, if you shoot at them they will run at you and kill you all.” Black Diamond was what they called our night vision mount on our helmets. Prior to that, 1st force laid the groundwork for our capabilities in the country in 2008 when they partook in The Battle of Shewan. Then the BearShark incident occurred when 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion lost a team to the Taliban on a hillside in now Zad. Everything was becoming more and more personal to me.
As a kid from NY, losing friends to the enemy deepened my resolve to bring to the enemy. I studied “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” and “The Other Side of the Mountain” vignettes about the Mujahideen and the Russian conflict in the 1980’s. I became obsessed with my enemy and wanted to learn as much as I could before coming into close contact with them. All the while thinking about lessons from others and the laws of war. When we returned from that deployment I was forever changed. We didn’t lose Marines to the enemy, but not all of us came home. We had witnessed the enemy firsthand and their disgusting ways with how they treated their adversaries.
Years later, GORUCK events have afforded me the opportunity to come home and meet those who were directly involved with the response to what transpired 22 years ago. I have had the opportunity to work with some of our nation's most violent individuals with the biggest hearts for our great nation that went forward and did what they could to keep our enemy from striking us again here at home.
These GORUCK 9/11 events hit differently. When meeting with folks who say “I haven’t been back to ground zero until now” are some of the heaviest words I have heard. Folks who were first responders or impacted by that fateful day come out to these events with the team so they don’t have to go alone and carry that burden by themselves. Every year since 2015 I have been honored to present not only my why, but a why shared by a nation. We promised as a nation “We Will Never Forget” those we lost and what and how this all happened on 11 September 2001.
This past weekend, I was tasked with leading the events in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where United 93 went down. The story is known far and wide now about how the passengers aboard learned about what had already happened to the planes in NYC and DC.
Our nation had some heroes on that flight and their actions directly reflected us as a people of this great nation and saved the lives of possibly thousands more. Todd Beamer, a passenger aboard United Flight 93, was last heard saying “Let’s Roll” and after a quick prayer, he and others did what Americans do and fought back against the terrorists on board. Like a lot of us, they fought for it. That was the theme I brought to Shanksville for the participants this past weekend. “FIGHT FOR IT”. Throughout the event and along the route the team had to fight for every step. Freedom is a heavy burden to carry and at these annual 9/11 events, we are all reminded of those freedoms and liberties we have in this nation and how in an instant it can all be taken away. Along the route, we stopped to share stories of the fallen and cover lessons learned from the events that transpired on 9/11.
No doubt those GRTs in Shanksville held it down, honored, and remembered the fallen and even though we had a couple that may have not been born yet, we took the responsibility to ensure that the next generation of our great nation knows and can feel the beat of the pulse behind who we are and how we will never forget.