Kim Johnson-Marble, 27, of Sacramento remembers the exact moment she found out about the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001.
"I was getting ready for school, in my sister's room. I asked 'What movie is this?' She said 'I think this is really happening in New York," Johnson-Marble reflected. "We just kind of sat there and stared at the TV for awhile."
Johnson-Marble remembered talking about it with her teachers in every class. She described feeling like a zombie that day. It was also the day she made an important realization that would define her life.
"I wanted to be a part of giving back, showing how strong we are as a country," Johnson-Marble said. "I told my parents 'I'm going to be in the army.'
Johnson-Marble said when she was giving her oath, she had that same gut feeling again in her stomach that she had during 9/11.
"Who would've thought the kid 16 years ago watching the TV would have boots on the ground in Afghanistan, where those terrorists once walked?" Johnson-Marbles said.
But that pride also comes with sacrifice and fear. Johnson-Marble is married and has two children back home. Fortunately, she said, her husband was also a combat veteran so he understands what he's going through.
"Nothing compares to holding your kid on their first birthday," Johnson-Marble said. Her youngest son Darren turns one just two days after September 11th.
Johnson-Marble added her parents are very proud but still scared.
"You strike up my dad in conversation at the truck stop, he's going to tell you how proud he is," Johnson-Marble said. "My mom...at the end of the day, she's very happy. She's always known I'm strong-willed and not scared to stand out front."
Johnson-Marble said as hard as it is to be away from home, she has to stay focused for her other family: her military family.
Every year, on September 11, Johnson-Marble has a tradition. It reminds her of why she is in Afghanistan in the first place.
"It's about remembering...embracing the significance. I usually reflect," Johnson-Marble said. "It might sound cheesy but I watch Black Hawk Down [or] Respiro...just to kind of put me in the mindset of why I made the ultimate decision to join."
Johnson-Marble hopes to make it back home before the end of the year.
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