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Submariners Reflect on Joining the Navy after 9.11

by Chief Petty Officer (SW/AW) David Rush, USN

Smoke and flames rise over the Pentagon following the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Photo caption follows

Like many serving in the Armed Forces, many of today’s submariners answered the call to duty as a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, four years later, submariners reflect on their decision to join the Navy.

Petty Officer 2nd Class (SS) Ben Warren, a former crewmember of USS Chicago (SSN-721), is currently serving on the staff of Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

According to Warren, deciding to serve his country happened as a direct result of the terrorist attacks. “It is the sole reason I am here in the Navy. I couldn’t just stand around doing the same job as a gymnastics coach while the terrorists could possibly kill more children. The thought of the kids in all my classes that I coached could be the future victims of something more horrendous than 9/11 was unbearable,” said Warren.

He said he knew that he would join the military. “I was filled with rage and resolve. Action had to be taken,” said Warren.

Prior to the attacks, Warren, like many Americans felt that the country was secure. “When it happened, I was crushed and the bubble in my head that our country was untouchable was popped. When things change for the worse, humans will go into survival mode and do whatever they have to do to get the job done,” said Warren.

According to Warren, the American resolve that followed is very similar to what took place more than 60 years ago.

“Just like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the country pulled together turning their businesses into war material factories. Today with all those materials already at hand, our country had a similar reaction of a battle cry to take care of this problem using any means possible. We are doing a great job so far,” concluded Warren.

Another Sailor who decided to join the Submarine Force is 26-year-old Oxford, Ohio native Seaman James Burnett of USS Cheyenne (SSN-773). According to Burnett, joining the Navy was something he wanted to do anyway, but 9/11 was a motivating factor. “At the time of the attacks, I was working at a vehicle armory company right after high school. I heard on the radio that the World Trade Center was hit. Then the other building was hit. It was a big shock,” said Burnett.

Burnett added that his father, an Army Vietnam veteran, was also an influence in his decision to join the Navy. Although he didn’t join for another two years after the attack, Burnett was compelled to enlist. “I always wanted to join the military, it was kind of a calling. To help rid the world of tyranny, I figured it was my time.”

Cheyenne’s Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Scharkey, a 23-year old Winona, Minn. native, was in disbelief when he heard the news. “I got off work and went home to sleep when the attack happened. My mom called and woke me up. It was scary, like Pearl Harbor. Then the Pentagon was hit,” recalled Scharkey.

In just a few months, Scharkey was at the recruiting office. He wanted a job that had something to do with communications. Although he was initially interested in the Aviation field, it was not as immediately available as the same vocation in submarines, so he volunteered for submarines.

“I wanted to defend my country and get back at those attacked us,” said Scharkey.
As for working in the submarine community, Scharkey insists his role in the Global War on Terrorism is important. “Every little bit matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Iraq or deployed in some other part of the world. Everybody has their role, and I feel like I have a good role,” concluded Scharkey.

Burnett echoed his sentiments.

“The war on terrorism is a war without a frontline. As a submariner I feel that we have a very big role. We are going to take our war to them.”

Chief Petty Officer Rush serves in the Public Affairs Office of the Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific.