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Sept. 11 attacks inspired young to join US military

September 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2011 forever changed the nation's sense of security.

It also inspired many young people to make a life-changing decision to join the military.

Many of those young men and women have since lost their lives in the war in Afghanistan.

The final resting place for Melissa Rose Barnes can be found at the Riverside National Cemetery in section 56B.

The 27-year-old naval yeoman was killed when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon on that September day.

In the years that followed the attacks, young men and women who choose to wear the uniform have been laid to rest nearby, including Aaron Ward.

Debbie Ward says her son was 12 years old when the 9/11 attacks happened. She says that made her son want to become a firefighter and move to New York.

At 18 years old, Aaron Ward instead enlisted in the Army as a military police officer.

"He wanted to serve his country and wanted to make a difference," Ward said. "Nine-11 with the terrorist was something that hit him harder as he got older and I am just very proud of my son for standing up for all us."

In 2008, Private First Class Aaron Ward was killed while on patrol in Iraq's al-Anbar province after his unit came under small arms fire. He had just celebrated his 19th birthday.

"After all this happened, I found out he volunteered for everything," Debbie Ward said. "This mission he went on, he volunteered to go on the mission when he was killed."

There have been 6,200 men and women killed in action since America's war on terror began. The highest number of those causalities is buried at the Riverside National Cemetery, including Ward.

"We have 81 Iraq and Afghanistan causalities, the highest number of the 131 cemeteries in the National Cemetery Administration," said Jim Ruester of the Riverside National Cemetery.

In the years since Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Ruester has helped oversee the funerals of the soldier killed in action.

For the past two years, Ward has visited her son's grave every weekend. It's where she feels closest to him.

"I like to think sometimes he is still at work and he just hasn't come back from work yet," she said.


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