Twenty Years Of Reflection — Was It Worth It?

George Kalantzis
6 min readSep 11, 2021

Thoughts from a combat veteran who has lived through it all.

Photo by Anthony Fomin on Unsplash

At seventeen years old, I had no goals, guidance, or plan. I felt like a failure because I spent most of my teenage years doing drugs and drinking. I should have asked for help. I should have tried harder and taken my life more seriously. But that’s not how it happened, and I’m not sure I’d be who I am today without those chaotic years.

It was a routine day in English class. I sat down in the back to find out where the upcoming parties on the weekend were happening. Those parties brought me thousands of dollars in drug sales. A secret many never knew about me.

About fifteen minutes into class, everyone went silent as the monitors turned on and we heard the announcement. One of the World Trade Centers in New York was a flaming fireball. No one knew what happened, and the news thought a plane crashed into the towers accidentally; it wasn’t an accident.

A few minutes later, I watched a plane crash into the second tower. I stood up and walked closer to the monitors with a sense of urgency that made me start my quest for something greater. America was going to war; I would become a Marine and fight for my country.

In June of 2002, I stepped on the yellow footprints in Paris Island. A few years after that, in 2004, I lost my best friend to a roadside bomb in Iraq at twenty years old. It was another defining moment that made me dedicate the next decade of my life as a Marine.

RIP, LCpl Adam Ryan Brooks, 2004

It’s been twenty years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, changed the world. I’ve been out of the Marine Corps for over a decade. I deployed to over forty countries and spent nearly a third of my life overseas. A few of those years fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now that we are out of Afghanistan, it’s only natural for me to reflect on the last twenty years. There’s a heaviness of confusion and grief I battle with. I lost friends to combat and suicide, and am haunted by memories of the past that only a few in this world will understand.

George Kalantzis

George is a professional storyteller, a dad to a sassy and adventurous six-year-old girl, and the author Of Nowhere To Go