MILITARY MATTERS: September 11 attacks prompt man in NJ to join the Army

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 12:03 AM EDT
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New York City (WTVM) - As we approach this weekend’s 20th anniversary of 9-11, many are remembering taking action after the attacks on America.

“I watched both towers fall basically off the hood of my truck,” Army Specialist (Ret) Rafael Riera said.

September 11th, 2001 started as a normal, uneventful day for Riera - until the 21-year-old went to take a relative to the airport, and in disbelief, he saw dramatic video on television.

“I thought it was just some movie or just some movie I had never seen before. I’m a big movie buff…like I’ve seen a lot of movies and I was like I’ve never seen this before and I was like what’s going on. After a couple of minutes, you knew it was not a movie,” Army Specialist (Ret) Rafael Riera said.

He immediately rushed to the New Jersey side of the Hudson river to bare witness to the terror attack. That’s where he decided to “join up” and his life changed forever.

“I just felt like something I had to do, It just felt like the country was going to be in need and I had no direction. I had no purpose. I had nothing really in life. I was just you know living day-by-day just trying to figure out what to do,” Army Specialist (Ret) Riera said.

That brave move sent him to the frontlines in the war on terror, now former infantryman Riera providing security in one Iraqi city while the area rebuilt following the fall of Saddam Hussein, and found himself in the middle of a heated battle. Hundreds were killed, thousand wounded. That battle is the focus of a NAT-GEO mini-series called “long road home” with Fort Hood soldiers like Riera as consultants.

Fast-forward to present day, many like him are reflecting on the day the towers fell, an area where Riera was at recently.

“It definitely humbles you and realizes that you’re part of something bigger,” Riera said.

Now out of the Army, he continues his mission helping others through his involvement in the combat veterans motorcycle association.

“We get money from that event to not only remember but also to try to help other veterans in needed so our motto is ‘Vets helping Vets.’ so it really helps out that it really gave me a sense of purpose out of after the military to join,” Riera said.

Their group is set to hold an event commemorating 9/11.

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