KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
When Douglas Acero was turning his M-16A2 rifle to the armory at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., the world changed.
“Something was wrong,” said Acero, now a Marine staff sergeant who serves with Marine Attack Squadron 513 as an AV-8B Harrier avionics technician. “We could all tell something was wrong.”
The day was Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Acero would graduate from Marine Corps recruit training the following Friday.
“Our senior drill instructor rolled out the TV in front of us,” said Acero, a native of Sugarland, Texas. “We witnessed for the first time what was going on in the world. I’ll never forget the faces of my platoon members.”
Many staff noncommissioned officers such as Acero were thrust into the post 9/11 Marine Corps. Most, like Acero, can remember what they felt.
“It was a lot to take in at a young age,” said Acero. I thought to myself, ‘This is what you signed up for, now it’s happening, and what are you going to do about it?’”
While Acero cites 9/11 as a major factor in his decision to continue his service for more than 10 years, his desire to be a Marine dates back to his adolescence.
“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to join the military,” he said. “In 7th grade I saw a Marine in Dress Blues come to pick up his son. It stuck out to me.”
Acero got his first taste of war in 2003, when he sailed the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard with Marine Attack Squadron 311 as part of the initial force that deployed to Iraq.
Ten years after 9/11, Acero finds himself once again in hostile territory helping to support 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in Helmand and Nimruz provinces.
“America still has a society that is willing to fight for its rights and protect their home,” Acero said. “There are plenty of fighting men and women out there.”
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