September 11, 2001, began as any other Tuesday in the Graham home. Trevor had just returned home from PT and was in the shower, while his wife Jolie was preparing breakfast for the couple and their two children.
She had the TV on as she was working in the kitchen. As the news began to capture her attention, she saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. She quickly ran into the bathroom and told Trevor what she was seeing.
“At first I didn’t believe her,” recalls Trevor. “I thought, yeah, some small Cessna must have flown into the side of the building.”
By the time Trevor got out of the shower and in front of the TV the Pentagon had been hit and the fourth plane had gone down.
“I knew the military was going to do something,” he says. “I just didn’t know what.”
Trevor also knew that whatever the military did decide to do would directly impact him. This was not just a typical suburban family, this was a military family - living on base at Fort Campbell, Kent.
Trevor got in his car and headed for work, not knowing for sure what to expect. As he traveled he could see signs of action already being taken: a military unit with constantine wire around and all personnel in full gear, Apache and Chinook helicopters circling overhead. Even the local school had quickly put up constantine wire and had a Humvee with a 50-caliber gun on top placed in front of the building.
Most of the units had moved items such as soda machines inside - anything an outside repairman would have to come in to work on was moved inside.
“We began working on stocking our medicine chests and getting our gear ready,” says Trevor, as the unit prepared for the unknown that lay ahead.
He says the attitude on base in those first few hours was one of shock. “American civilians aren’t supposed to get killed, soldiers are. We were mad,” he explains, saying the soldiers felt it was their job to protect the people.
Trevor called home from work that morning and told Jolie not to leave the Post. Jolie later discovered leaving wasn’t what most were trying to do - instead they were trying to get back in. Of the 10 gates on the Post, all were closed but one.
Traffic was backed up for miles with families desperate to get back to their homes on base. Some waited in their cars with little ones for several hours.
Jolie says local businesses came with bottles of water and food and passed them out to those stranded in their cars waiting to get back on the base.
Jolie recalls walking outside and encountering several of the other military spouses. All, like her, were in a state of confusion and disbelief. Her children were only 1 and 2 1/2 at the time.
“It was all very frightening,” recalls Jolie. “And it was at that point that I realized my husband didn’t just have another job - he had a duty to protect our country and our freedoms.”
Trevor was in 1/502nd HHC at the time, and as the platoon Sergeant for the medical platoon, he knew he could very likely be deployed immediately. However, another unit was sent instead. But all prepared. They trained for a month at a time every three months.
Then, in 2003, the deployment came. Trevor and his unit were part of the initial invasion of Iraq, and he was gone from home and from his family for a full year.
In 2005, he was again deployed to Iraq, and this time was stationed in Baghdad. His third tour came in 2007, when he was sent to Afghanistan for a year.
“My kids just got accustomed to having daddy gone every other year,” says Jolie. “That was just the way of life for them.”
Right after the attack, Jolie went to work putting together a scrapbook of the events for her children.
“They were too little to know what was going on. I wanted my kids to understand why their daddy did what he did and to be proud of the sacrifice he made.”
Jolie fully understood military life; she too had been in the Army. In fact, that was where she and Trevor met. When they started their family, she says, the couple had some serious discussions about the possibility of their children having both parents deployed. The decision was made that Jolie would get out, which she did in 2000.
“When he came home from Iraq, I told my husband I understood that there were things he couldn’t talk to me about, but that nothing could ever make me ashamed of him,” says Jolie. “Not only is he my best friend and soul mate, but he is also my Hero.”
Trevor is now retired from the Army, and his retirement could not have come at a better time. Had his eligibility been one day later he would have had to deploy again. His unit just returned home from another tour in Iraq.
Trevor and Jolie both say the military was a great life for them. However, Jolie says it has been difficult getting back in to the civilian world, especially for the children.
“The military has always been part of their lives.”
Both Trevor and Jolie also say they believe it is important for people to talk about those events.
“People shouldn’t forget it happened,” says Trevor. “The war is completely different now than it was that first year. Initially we were fighting a standing Army in Iraq.”
“I think too many people have forgotten and desensitized the situation because we don’t want to upset anybody,” adds Jolie. “ We have soldiers continuing to die over there, and I think people have forgotten about that.”
The couple’s children, Jackie - 13, and James - 11, are now old enough to understand. But at the time, 2 1/2-year-old Jackie could not understand why her father had to leave. Jolie says she tried several times to explain it to her daughter, but she just couldn’t grasp it. That is, until Trevor explained.
“Daddy has to put the bad guy in a corner.”
That, Jolie says, she understood.