The American Legion
SEP 06, 2021
This week The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast wraps up its special series of 20 captivating stories related to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
One episode of the podcast series will release each weekday by 9 a.m. Eastern, concluding on Sept. 10. All of the previous 15 episodes are available at the Tango Alpha Lima podcast web page.
Here’s a snapshot of this week’s compelling episodes:
• Monday: “I heard this huge explosion … I knew I had been hit.”
— A constantly ringing phone on Sept. 11, 2001, woke Col. Kim Campbell, pausing her required rest, the morning before a scheduled night training flight. “Once the second tower was hit, I realized life as we knew it had changed. We were under attack. We were likely going to war.” Campbell went to war, saw combat and is perhaps best known for safely piloting her A-10 Thunderbolt back to base after taking heavy anti-aircraft artillery damage over Baghdad in 2003. Listen to the audio version here or watch the video on YouTube here.
• Tuesday: “They needed to see that I would be OK.”
— Rob Jones, a Marine Corps veteran who was a combat engineer post 9/11. His role was to find buried caches of weapons. On his second tour in 2010, he was tasked with finding IEDs in Afghanistan. He stepped on an IED, which resulted in above knee amputations of both legs. Jones, an American Legion member, embraced fitness as a tool in his recovery. In 2013, he rode his bicycle 5,100 miles across the United States and four years later ran 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 different cities. Listen to the audio version here or watch the video on YouTube here.
• Wednesday: “I had an intense feeling that I needed to be there. I needed to be helping.”
— Jennifer Vollbrecht, who was age 15 on 9/11, was inspired to serve that day. Two years later, she joined the Marine Corps, served as a combat aviator and deployed to Iraq. A member of American Legion Post 16 in Stockton, Calif., Vollbrecht participated in the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, which led her to become an entrepreneur. She is now chief executive officer at J. Vollbrecht Consulting, which allows her to continue “with a national security mission.”
• Thursday: “It was this call to volunteer.”
— Sept. 11 was the sixth day John Paluska, 18, was in New York, after leaving Iowa to attend Fordham University. After watching the second tower fall from his apartment rooftop, he took a subway to ground zero to help the rescue and recovery. He subsequently joined the Army, became a Green Beret and deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations. Now he is a volunteer with the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
• Friday: “I’m going to live every day to the fullest so I remember not only 9/11 but veterans who have given us the ability to chase our dreams.”
— Josh Bleill, a Purdue University graduate, was working in corporate America on 9/11. Two years later, Bleill entered Marine Corps boot camp at age 27. In 2006, on his first deployment to Iraq a bomb exploded under the vehicle he was riding in. Two of his fellow Marines died in the explosion. Bleill lost both his legs and suffered PTSD and TBI. Upon his recovery, he has become a motivational speaker, sharing the stories of not just himself but all veterans.