Iraqi Freedom veteran speaks to Decatur classes
DECATUR — Everybody who was around on Sept. 11, 2001, remembers the pain and anger they felt as they watched the United States under attack by a cowardly enemy. Those who witnessed this event unfold on live television that day stopped for a moment on Sept. 11, 2017, the 16th anniversary, to remember those who perished in that attack.
The end result of the 911 attack on New York, Washington, D.C, and Shanksville, Penn., led the United States into a race to get a ruthless dictator out of power and restore freedom to a country ravaged by decades of war with its
neighbors and the world. The war was code-named “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
Decatur resident Robert Hill spoke to the combined third-grade classes of Leslie Thompson, Bobbi Turner and Mandi Taylor at Decatur Northside Elementary School on Sept. 15 about his experiences during the attacks on the United States, as well as giving a unique perspective on his experience as an Army soldier stationed in Iraq.
“After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, we were all pretty shocked,” Hill said. “There had never been an attack like that in America. If you heard of Pearl Harbor, it was pretty close. A lot of people lost their lives and that is what brought us into World War II in 1941.”
Hill explained the differences between the 1941 and 2001 events in an effort to give the kids a perspective on the difference between the two.
“Pearl Harbor was a major attack on a military base in Hawaii,” said Hill. “The attacks on Sept. 11 were attacks on normal people. You probably saw that in videos of this event. They (the hijackers) flew airplanes into buildings where normal people were working. Because of that event, our president at the time, George W. Bush, decided to take the fight to the people responsible for that attack.”
At the time of the 911 attack, Hill was in college. Like most young Americans watching events unfold on national television, he wanted to join the military and do his part in defending freedom.
“I came pretty close to joining the military the next day,” Hill said. “But my mom convinced me to finish college and get a degree. As soon as I graduated, I joined the military.”
Hill was a member of the 51st Cavalry Unit, 6th Squadron, 1st Regiment of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One) stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska (outside of Fairbanks) from 20062012. In 2008, Hill’s unit was deployed to the Diyala Provence in east-central Iraq for 12 months.
Hill showed a few slides from his experiences in Iraq before he opened up the floor for questions from the kids.
Robert Hill was one of a vast network of young Americans that joined the military to defend freedom. By telling his story to the kids at Northside Elementary (his daughter Sophia was one of the third-graders), Hill hoped the students would better understand what freedom is and the cost of defending it for their futures as well as for the futures of their children.
Decatur resident Robert Hill (standing) answers questions from third-grade students of Leslie Thompson, Bobbi Turner and Mandi Taylor at Decatur Northside Elementary on Sept. 15. Hill recounted the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and his subsequent service in the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.