While the 9/11 terror attacks changed the way of life for all Americans, many men and women decided to change their own lives and enlist to defend our country. 17 News spoke with three men on the 11th anniversary of the attacks.
On September 11, 2001, one was working a successful construction job, another was a professional athlete, and the last was still in high school. All of them say after the attack, they knew they had to do more.
In the moments of terror the nation faced that day, there was courage found in people like Aaron Shaw. "It was anger, disgust, you know that kind of thing," said Shaw of the attacks. "I think that's what a lot of others were feeling."
That day brought out bravery in now veteran Jeremy Staat. "I remember turning on the TV and seeing the second plane hit, and it was very humbling," recalled Staat of the attacks.
And, 9/11 paved the path of then high school senior, Wesley Barrientos. "When 9/11 happened, I just said I can't let this happen to my country again," said Barrientos. "I've got to do something and that's when I did it."
That defining day helped define the futures of all three men, all of them willing to give up something to serve. Aaron was working a prosperous construction job when he quit. Unable to shake what he'd seen in the attacks, he enlisted in the Navy.
"It was always in the back of my head that I wanted to do my part, do my part for America," said Aaron Shaw.
Jeremy Staat was a professional football player. But, 9/11 and the death of his close friend, Pat Tillman, were game changers. He joined the Marines. "You know, I used to live for myself and think that everything was about me," said Staat. "But, after seeing the victims and the first responders and the veterans that are upon this Wall or Remembrance here, I just said you know what, life is all about service."
And, while 9/11 forever changed New York's skyline, it forever altered the body of Wesley Barrientos. "People always say why does 9/11 mean so much to you," said Barrientos. "To me, it means a lot. Because of 9/11, I don't have any legs. Because what happened in 9/11 started the whole transition of all the events that have happened the rest of my life until now."
A life, shared with his family, Barrientos says he wouldn't change. Service, he and the other veterans say, they would proudly do all over again.
"If I had to go back and do it all over again, I'd still do it, yeah," said Shaw.
"Absolutely, every day I would do it over. If I could go back and continue to serve, I'd do that as well," said Staat.
"I don't regret a second of it. I'm proud of what I've done for my country. I love my country. And, I would have given more if I was asked to give more," said Barrientos.
Staat says while he believes some people are beginning to forget across the country, he still feels the patriotism in Bakersfield. And, Wesley believes more people now are still enlisting to genuinely serve the country then before the attacks.