Michael Rivera’s first reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center was of pure disbelief.
“We’ve never been to war on American turf. I was thinking, ‘Really? Right now? This is happening on American soil?’ It froze me for a moment,” he said.
Sgt. First Class Michael Rivera, 40, who currently serves as a recruiting and retention non-commission officer at the Rosemount National Guard Training Center, served as a marine from April 1990 until November 1997.
At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, he was no longer a part of the services. “At that time … [on that day], I was wondering if I hadn’t gotten out, where would I be right now? I began asking myself a million and one questions. What role would I have had to play in the current environment? Would they send me out to Afghanistan right away?”
Rivera made the decision to re-enlist and officially joined the National Guard in January 2006. He had many reasons for rejoining, however, there were three that really captured the significance of his decision: he missed the camaraderie and pride of wearing the uniform, and he wanted to, once again, actively serve his country.
“The core values of the armed services hadn’t changed [one bit],” Rivera said. Of putting back on his uniform, he added, “All of the adrenaline, pride and honor that comes with wearing the uniform [flooded] back almost immediately. It becomes a lifestyle.”
Concerning the upcoming 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, Rivera said, “It’s a time to grieve, to mourn the loss, but it’s also a time to celebrate. Although we’re still engaged in the war on terror, I believe things could be a lot worse than it is, and the one in charge (Osama Bin Laden) is no longer with us.”
Even though Rivera hasn’t gotten deployed since re-enlisting, he spent many years in Iraq, and was deployed twice, as a marine in the 90s.
“There’s a part of me that does want to deploy again. It would be very interesting to have that opportunity to go and see what’s different … it’s a different environment [there] than 20 years ago.” He continued, “I do feel a lot of good things are happening [over there]. However, I made a commitment to my wife that I wouldn’t be in a hurry to leave.”
Rivera has been married for five years to his wife, Katie, and they are expecting their first child in February 2012. He has lived in Minnesota for six years, and currently resides in Burnsville.
Read more accounts about the impact of 9/11:
Eagan: Eagan Resident Mike Ferber Hopes Memories of 9/11 Won’t Fade
Edina: Retired Army Vet Spurred to Re-Enlist Following 9/11 Attacks
Fridley: Demand Soared for Speakers on Islam after 9/11
Inver Grove Heights: VFW Commander: Sept. 11 Changed the Country
Lake Minnetonka: Remembering Wayzata Native Gordy Aamoth
Lakeville: Lakeville VFW Post Manager's Wife Working at Pentagon on Sept. 11
Minnetonka: 9/11 Memories From a Former New Yorker
Mendota Heights: Retired Mendota Heights Pilot Recalls ‘Paradigm Shift’
Northfield: Northfielder Will Never Forget His Birthday in Iraq
Oakdale: Terror and Joy Came Together for Oakdale Family
Richfield: 9/11 Aftermath: Richfield Couple Waits for Possible Deployment
St. Louis Park: 9/11 Attacks Made Being Muslim ‘More Difficult’