CELINA, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Twenty years ago they were just high school teenagers sitting in a second period class, watching as America came under attack on the morning of September 11, 2001.
North Texas Army veterans Brian Fleming and Clifton Place say they knew that moment they would enlist to serve as soon as they could.READ MORE: Plano Police Lieutenant Passes Away Due To COVID-19 Complications
Fleming said, “The bottom line is when something like that happens you can’t sit back and do nothing when a terrorist organization flies airplanes into building and kills thousands of people and you have to respond to that.”
Place added, “I’ve got a lot of family members that have been military and I kind of felt like it was my calling that I needed to do something.”
Prior to that horrific morning two decades ago, Fleming planned to pursue a career in medicine. Place had planned on becoming a firefighter.
They’re just two of the countless veterans of their generation that abandoned plans after high school and instead chose to go serve, motivated by what they saw on 9/11.
Fleming and Place became infantry men. Fleming would serve in Afghanistan, while Place would do two tours in Iraq.
Place said, “In the infantry most of the guys that we serve are like minded guys. They are there for the same exact reason. They know their job. They all know to go kick some tail. That’s what we signed up for.”
While in Afghanistan Fleming would survive a suicide bombing attack on the road that left him with critical injuries this his body and face.READ MORE: Cook Children's Explains Its Canceling Of Elective Surgeries Due To Spike In COVID-19 Cases
He was awarded the purple heart as a result and was honorably discharged in 2007. His life since has been devoted to motivational speaking and helping others through their hardships, using his experience as a teaching tool and inspiration.
Fleming added, “I’ve had my struggles, but it’s been very good in the sense of the direction that I’ve gone, and that’s due to a lot of people helping me.”
Both agree life would have been much different if the attack of 9/11 would have never happened.
They say they think of their fellow service members who never made it home, and they strive to keep their memory alive by telling their stories.
As they both look back on the 20th year anniversary of the attacks they reflect on what life has been like since.
Flaming said, “I’ve had my struggles but it’s been very good in the sense of the direction that I’ve gone, and that’s due to a lot of people helping me.”
Place added, “I don’t know where I would have been I would like to think I would have served my country.”
Both men now live in Celina, Texas.MORE NEWS: 'They've Missed So Much Already': North Texas Parents Plan Homecoming Dance After School District Cancels Due To COVID-19
They are fathers and husbands, and say it feels like it was just yesterday when they were watching the horror unfold as teenage kids in high school class.