By Bill Cortese
At the risk of sounding cliché, September 11, 2001 was a day like any other during that time of the year. Little did we know that the beauty of that day would be shattered by an act of terror we have never seen on American soil, before or since.
I vividly remember sitting in my 10th grade geometry class as the events unfolded before our eyes. One thing was clear to me. This was a declaration of war by our enemy and we would need young men and women to fight that war. I walked home with my best friend as we took stock of the day’s events and I knew exactly what I had to do; I would enlist as soon as I could.
That night, after getting home from school, we all took note of what happened and what would come next. It was in that moment I knew my decision to enlist was going to be the right one.
Military service was in my family as far back as my great-grandfather Carmine Tiso, an Italian immigrant who fought for his adopted country in the U.S. Army in World War I. He also proudly marched in the Mount Vernon Veterans Day parade every year until he passed away. Just as my great-grandfather was moved to serve, so was I and I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the beginning of my senior year of high school.
The Marine Corps taught me lessons I have taken with me to this day and will hold onto for the rest of my life. It taught me about teamwork, sacrifice and dedication to a cause. It took me from a swampy island off the coast of South Carolina, to the pine forests of North Carolina, to the scorched deserts in the Horn of Africa and back again. After my six years was completed, my calling to serve did not end, it just changed now that I was no longer wearing a uniform.
In 2015, I found another way to serve and give back to my fellow veterans—many of which had heeded the call to enlist after 9/11, just as I did. As the first large waves of veterans cycled out of active service, many found a job market that did not understand them and did not know what to do with them, but Sharp Decisions did.
I joined the advisory board of the V.E.T.S. (Vocation, Education and Training for Service members) Program that recruits and hires post-9/11 veterans, and then trains and deploys them clients, often in teams of three or more to drive much greater efficiency for client engagements. These veterans are trained in highly skilled technology jobs and at no cost to the veteran. I am proud to be a part of an organization comprised of civilians and veterans, working together to serve those who served our country.
September 11, 2001 forever changed the path I would travel down, as it did for thousands of others. While we will never forget the events of that tragic day and those we lost, this is a day of unity. It’s a day America came together to prove our will is stronger than that of our enemies. If you knock us down, we’ll come back even stronger. We could use more of that American unity today.