Everson Lofton: Moving My Life Forward

Nov 9, 2021

Stories of Enduring Service

Everson’s story is part “Stories of Enduring Service,” a collection of stories from veterans and advocates who were inspired to serve or whose service was impacted by 9/11. Stories of Enduring Service is a story telling element of Operation Enduring Service, a campaign to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and honor those who served in the wake of that day.

I was a junior in high school when 9/11 happened. I was in the ROTC program and excited to join the military. I was walking between my first and second classes of the day when one of my friends — a silly guy — came up to me and said, “Hey, we’re at war.” I really wasn’t sure what he was saying, or if he was just joking. He explained a little more that two airplanes had done a “kamikaze mission” into the Twin Towers. Once I got to class — we had TV’s in the classroom, and they were on — I saw the towers fall over and over again as the news kept showing replays. We didn’t know who we were going to go to war with because at the time, we weren’t sure who had attacked us the way we learned about with Pearl Harbor. But we knew this was going to be big. 

I joined the military after high school as planned, and first deployed to Iraq in December 2003 — I ended up deploying to Iraq three times in total. During my first deployment, I knew my mission was supposed to be tied to 9/11. I remember being upset because I was told that Afghanistan was responsible for 9/11 — so why was I in Iraq?  I did my research and got interested in politics. I had wanted to defend my country, so it felt like I was being used to satisfy the Bush family’s beef with Sadaam Hussein knowing I wasn’t even deployed to the right country. I wanted to be in Afghanistan, dismantling the Taliban and holding the people responsible for 9/11 accountable. For my second and third deployment Sadaam Hussein was gone and we had already been there for a few years. Since we had dismantled the government in Iraq, I felt we had a responsibility to rebuild it, and prevent another dictator from rising to power and allow terrorists to thrive there.    

When I got into my 20s, my friends back home were moving forward with their lives and careers as teachers, lawyers, and the like. In comparison, I felt like I was just repeating the same old things in the military, and having to deploy to Iraq every other year. I became more determined to move forward in life, a decision that led me to leave the military and focus on getting a college degree.  

In the 10 years that I separated from the military, I earned my degree in political science and went into government and politics. After finishing a couple campaigns, I went on to pursue my next passion: education and history. I got master’s degrees in history and education, and became a high school history teacher. As a teacher, I find it incredible to see how young students thought about 9/11 the way I thought about Pearl Harbor — an event that you learn about in school.  I then became an assistant principal. After that, I wanted to fulfill my other dream of owning my own business. Right now I’m working on creating my own trucking company. Looking back, being able to pursue my education with the G.I. Bill was instrumental in helping me realize my dreams and getting me where I wanted to go. Looking back on 20 years since 9/11, I am thinking about all of the new veterans that were created by these wars, and hope that they have been able to use their benefits to move their lives forward after the military.