September 11, 2001, is a day forever burned in our memories. It is appropriate to pause in remembrance of those lost and to pray for their families. It is also appropriate to be ever thankful for our first responders who, then and now, rush into burning and crumbling buildings with inspiring courage and selflessness.
September 12, 2001 is also riveted in my memory. That day, President Bush called on all parts of government to respond to the horrific attacks and I was selected to lead the U.S. Treasury Department's response by developing comprehensive economic sanctions against our attackers. As a reserve Marine Corps officer, I would have rather been gearing up to go to Afghanistan, but economic sanctions have played a part in virtually all America's wars by denying our enemies access to America's vast economy and wealth.
Traveling into Washington D.C. that day, smoke hung in air from the still-burning Pentagon and Reagan National Airport was eerily still and silent. The only sound was our fighter jets overhead.
That morning, I briefed a Deputy White House Counsel and the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council on the available economic options that could be used in response to the attack, to be issued in the form of a Presidential Executive Order. Normally an executive order takes months to complete, because it must be approved by all major federal departments including Defense, State and Justice before being signed by the President.
I had the first draft done that night. Over the next days, I led briefings to senior leaders of various agencies about the legal and economic structures of the sanctions in what was a chaotic, stress-filled time in the federal government. Instead of months, this order was ready for signature in just 12 days, and on September 23, President Bush signed Executive Order 13224 calling it the "first shot fired in the global war on terrorism."
I stayed at Treasury a few more weeks to help implement that order and then volunteered to return to active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. I was shortly on a list to deploy to Afghanistan, though that mission was canceled. Ultimately I stayed on active duty the next two years, which included being deployed to Iraq for the invasion in 2003. That was the first of my three tours in Iraq over the next 6 years.
For me, reflecting on September 11th and September 12th always renews my commitment to service as a legacy not only for those lost on that day, but also for those lost in the follow-on conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This is why I am driven to serve.