Iraqi Free­dom vet­eran speaks to De­catur classes

Westside Eagle-Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Eck­els meck­els@nwadg.com

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.

Photo by Mike Eck­els

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.

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